Welcoming 23 New Jersey public school districts closing schools on Diwali this year, Hindus are urging all public school districts and private-charter-independent schools in the state to close on their most popular festival Diwali.
In a statement in Nevada today, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed said that it was simply not fair to Hindu pupils of most of the New Jersey schools, as they had to be at school on their most popular festival while there were holidays to commemorate festivals of other religions.
Diwali falls on October 24 this year; and the 2022-2023 calendars of Bernards Township, Bridgewater-Raritan Regional, Central Bucks, Cherry Hill, Clifton, East Brunswick, Edison Township, Fair Lawn, Glen Rock, Hillsborough Township, Hopewell Valley Regional, Livingston, Marlboro Township, Millburn Township, Monroe Township, Montgomery Township, Paramus, Parsippany-Troy Hills Township, Piscataway Township, Robbinsville, Sayreville, South Brunswick, West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School-Districts/Public-Schools/Schools; show their schools closed for students on October 24.
Moreover, Colts Neck Township Schools, Englewood Cliffs Public Schools and West Long Branch School District are offering ‘Short Session Day,’ ‘single session’ and ‘Early Dismissal’ respectively, on October 24.
Zed, who is President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, stated that a holiday on Diwali in New Jersey schools would be a step in the positive direction in view of the reported 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 Hindu pupils.
Rajan Zed indicated that since it was important for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home with their children, closing schools on Diwali would ensure that and would also display how respectful and accommodating New Jersey schools were to their faith.
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 that all New Jersey 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 Jersey students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.
Zed urged New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy, New Jersey Acting Education Commissioner Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan and New Jersey State Board of Education President Kathy Goldenberg; to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the state’s public schools and persuading the private-charter-independent schools to follow.
Zed also thanked the Boards of Education of school districts, which closed schools for students on Diwali, for understanding the concerns of the Hindu community.
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.
“The List of Religious Holidays Permitting Student Absence from School” of the New Jersey State Board of Education contains 21 Hindu holidays; which include Guru Purnima, Onam, Naga Panchami, Raksha Bandhan, Krishna Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Navaratri, Diwali, Goverdhan Puja, Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Vasant Panchami, Maha Shivaratri, Govinda Dwadashi, Meena Sankranthi, Holika Dahan, Holi, Souramana Yugadi, Chandramana Yugadi, Ramnavami, Hanuman Jayanti. Onam is listed here for 12 days, Navaratri for nine, and Diwali for five.
Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion in the world, with about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the USA.