New York Governor Declares Diwali a Public School Holiday

Diwali School Holiday

Image courtesy: India Today

In a groundbreaking move, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul has signed legislation designating Diwali as a public school holiday for New York City. The decision was celebrated at a special reception at the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Flushing, New York.

Governor Hochul emphasized the rich diversity of New York City, stating, “We’re taking an important step to recognize and celebrate this diversity in the school calendar.” The legislation mandates the closure of all public schools in New York City on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Indian calendar, known as Diwali.

With 1,047,895 students in the NYC school system, including 16.5% Asians, and 1,867 schools as of Fall 2022, this move aims to acknowledge and embrace the cultural traditions of Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist communities. Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, the first Indian-American and Hindu elected to the New York State Office, spearheaded the efforts to establish Diwali as a school holiday. She expressed pride in making Diwali an American holiday, saying, “We see you, we recognize you, and Diwali is an American holiday.”

New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo highlighted the importance of Diwali’s message during a time of global challenges, emphasizing its themes of light triumphing over darkness and knowledge overcoming ignorance. He commended Governor Hochul for approving the legislation and Rajkumar for her efforts in both the Assembly and Senate.

The move was applauded by various community leaders and organizations, including New American Voter Association President Dr. Dilip Nath and Indian Diaspora Council International President Ashook Ramsaran. Ramsaran termed the legislation a “significant achievement” following decades of grassroots efforts.

Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad New York President Bhajan Sarker noted that the 300,000 New Yorkers celebrating Diwali can now do so with their families without compromising school attendance. Nepali Community Leader Nabaraj KC expressed gratitude to Governor Hochul for recognizing the Hindu community and the festival of lights.

In signing the historic legislation, Governor Hochul reinforced the importance of Diwali as an opportunity for children to learn about and celebrate diverse traditions from around the world, fostering a sense of inclusivity and understanding within the community.

Re-reported from the article originally published in The India Today

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