Hindus, who have been pushing for Diwali holiday at Bernards Township School District (BTSD) in New Jersey, have welcomed the announcement of holiday on Diwali, the most popular of Hindu festivals, starting 2021.
Nick Markarian, BTSD Superintendent, in an email to distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, wrote: The Board directed that the district’s calendar policy be revised to close school for students on Diwali when Diwali falls on a weekday starting with the 2021-2022 school year.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada today, called closing schools on Diwali by BTSD “a step in the positive direction”. He urged all public school districts and private-charter-independent schools in New Jersey to close on Diwali in view of presence of a substantial number of Hindu students in New Jersey; as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of these 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.
In New Jersey for 2017, when Diwali fell on October 19; Glen Rock Public Schools announced closure of schools and offices on Diwali; in West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, schools were closed on October 19; and in Piscataway Township Schools, there was “No School for Students” on Diwali. And in the recent past, Millburn Township Public Schools announced Diwali day off for students for the next three years, Edison Township Public Schools declared “no school for students” for upcoming Diwali and Chesterfield Township School District declared school closure on November seven for Diwali; reports suggest.
Zed urged New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy, New Jersey Acting Education Commissioner Dr. Lamont Repollet and New Jersey State Board of Education President Arcelio Aponte; 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 BTSD Board and its President Robin McKeon and Superintendent Markarian for understanding the concerns of Hindu community.
Rajan Zed states 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 19 Hindu holidays, which include Chandramana Yugadi, Diwali, Duserra, Ganesha Chaturthi, Goverdhan Puja, Guru Purnima, Hanuman Jayanti, Holi, Krishna Janmashtami, Maha Shivaratri, Makar Sankranti, Naga Panchami, Navaratri, Onam, Pongal, Raksha Bandhan, Ramnavami, Souramana Yugadi, Vasant Panchami. Navaratri is listed for nine days.
Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.
Mission of awards-winning BTSD, headquartered in Basking Ridge, includes: to provide a superior education which…fosters social-emotional development.