Hindus have welcomed the reported inclusion of Diwali, most popular of their festival, as holiday by East Williston Union Free School District (EWUFSD) in New York State on its School Calendar for 2017-2018. Nearby Syosset Central School District, East Meadow School District and Half Hollow Hills Central School District recently declared Diwali as an official holiday, while Mineola Union Free School District announced that no home work or examinations would be given on Diwali, reports suggest.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, describing it as a step in the right direction, urged all other public school districts and private-charter-independent schools in New York State to do the same. Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that it would be a positive thing to do in view of presence of a substantial number of Hindu students at schools around the state, as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of these pupils. Rajan Zed indicated that schools should make efforts to accommodate the religious requirements of Hindu students and show respect to their faith by not conducting regular business and scheduling classes on Diwali. We did not want our students to be put at an unnecessary disadvantage for missing tests/examinations/papers, assignments, class work, etc., by taking a day-off to observe Diwali.
If schools had declared other religious holidays, why not Diwali, Zed asked. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion, Zed added Rajan Zed suggested all New York State schools, public-private-charter-independent, to seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday, thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. Zed noted that awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make New York State students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.
Zed urged New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State Education Department Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa and New York State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia; to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the 728 school districts, and persuading the private-charter-independent schools to follow. Rajan Zed further says that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus. Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Besides Hindus; Sikhs and Jains and some Buddhists also celebrate Diwali, which falls on October 19 in 2017.
Zed thanked EWUFSD Board of Education President Mark Kamberg and other Board members for supporting Diwali holiday. EWUFSD, headquartered in Old Westbury of New York; reportedly serves East Williston and parts of Albertson, Mineola, Old Westbury, and Roslyn Heights in Nassau County. It claims to gear its educational program “to encourage critical thinking and a love of learning”. Its Mission includes: “to nurture the best in each child morally, intellectually, socially, artistically, emotionally and physically”. Dr. Elaine Kanas is Superintendent.
Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.