Reno, Nev. (Feb. 19, 2017) — Hindus have welcomed reports of Board of Education of Half Hollow Hills Central School District of Huntington and Babylon in New York State unanimously adopting Diwali, most popular of their festival, as an official holiday on the 2017-2018 school year calendar.
Nearby Syosset Central School District and East Meadow 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, according to the announcement.
Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said in a statement from Nevada on Saturday, that the announcement is “a step in the right direction,” and urged other public school districts and private-charter-independent schools in New York State to do the same.
Zed said 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.
“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,” Zed said. “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.”
Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion, Zed added.
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.
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 Oct. 19 in 2017.
Eric Geringswald, school board president of Half Hollow Hills Central School District, along with the other school board members and Kelly Fallon, superintendent, should be congratulated for supporting Diwali holiday, Zed said. The school district offices, in Dix Hills hamlet of New York, serves about 8,550 students in nine schools of Huntington and Babylon communities of Long Island.
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 the United States.