Welcoming Edison Township Public Schools (ETPS) in New Jersey declaring Diwali holiday for students, Hindus are urging all public school districts and private-charter-independent schools in New Jersey to close on this popular Hindu festival.
ETPS Board of Education, in the Public Board Meeting of February 26, upon the recommendation of the Superintendent of Schools, unanimously approved 2018-2019 School Calendar which gives a day of “no school for students” for Diwali in November.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada yesterday, said that holiday on Diwali in New Jersey schools would be a step in the positive direction 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 Hindu pupils.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, 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, Rajan Zed asked. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion, Zed added.
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.
Rajan 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 ETPS Board lead by Jingwei “Jerry” Shi and ETPS Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley for understanding the concerns of Hindu community.
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.
In New Jersey for 2017, when Diwali fell on October 19; Glen Rock Public Schools announced closure of schools and offices on it; 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, reports suggest.
“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.
ETPS, which “encourages productive contributions to a diverse and constantly evolving global society” and whose tradition is “Nothing less than excellence”, runs 18 schools.