Reno, Nev. (Oct. 5, 2017) — The Universal Society of Hinduism on Wednesday welcomed news that Millburn Township Public Schools in New Jersey has added Nov. 7 to its 2018-19 draft holiday calendar.
The date recognizes the Hindu festival Diwali (festival of lights), which falls on Nov. 7 in 2018.
In a statement from Nevada on Wednesday, Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, urged the Millburn Township’s Board of Education to unanimously approve this Diwali holiday to its holiday calendar when it meets Oct. 9. The board should respect the feelings of Hindus in the 5,000 student school district who have pushed for the Diwali holiday for many years, he said, which would bode well for a school district that reportedly has 99 percent of graduating seniors going on to attend four-year colleges.
The Hindu community is rapidly growing in New Jersey, Zed said. Three public school districts have reportedly declared the Diwali holiday this Oct. 19, the date on which Diwali falls in 2017. Glen Rock Public Schools, West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, and Piscataway Township Schools all close schools and school district offices for Diwali, he said.
In neighboring New York, six school districts have declared Diwali a school holiday, Zed said. East Meadow School District, East Williston Union Free School District, Half Hollow Hills Central School District, Herricks Union Free School District, Hicksville Union Free School District and Syosset Central School District.
The Mineola Union Free School District has also announced that no home work or examinations would be given on Diwali, he said.
In Pennsylvania, Unionville-Chadds Ford School District headquartered in Kennett Square approved closure of schools on Diwali, he said. The Harvard Public School District in Massachusetts has declared Oct. 19 as an “early release day,” he said.
“The remaining 674 public school districts and private-charter-independent schools in New Jersey should seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday, thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education,” Zed said. “The awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make New Jersey students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.”
A recognized Diwali holiday would be a positive thing to do in view of presence of a substantial number of Hindu students at schools around the state, he said. It os important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of these pupils, he said.
It is important for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home with their children, Zed said. We do not want our children to be deprived of any privileges at the school because of thus resulting absences on this day, he said.
“Closing schools on Diwali would ensure that and it would be a step in the positive direction,” Zed said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey State Board of Education President Arcelio Aponte and New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington, should work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the public school districts in the state, and persuading the private-charter-independent schools to follow, Zed said.
“Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus,” Zed said. “Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil.”
Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents. There are about 3 million Hindus in the United States, he said.