Community members voiced support for the proposal to give public school students the day off for the Indian holiday, which this year falls on Thursday, October 23 and on Wednesday, November 11, in 2015.
According to the most recent census, there are 207,414 New York City residents who identify themselves as Asian Indian, of which many celebrate Diwali.
“There are tens of thousands of public school students in New York City who celebrate Diwali,” said Dromm. “These students must pick between attending class and spending the day with their families, while students in the Christian and Jewish faiths do not have to make this decision when they celebrate holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Christmas. There shouldn’t be this discrepancy.”
Millions of people around the world celebrate Diwali by lighting lanterns to symbolize an inner light to dispel ignorance and darkness. It is a five-day festival that begins on the 13th day of the Hindu month of Kartik.
In 2007, the House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing the religious and historical significance of the holiday. Recently, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Diwali commemorative stamp.
“Diwali is of great significance to the Indian-American community and it is celebrated annually by various faith groups across the City of New York,” said Congressman Joe Crowley. “We need a public school calendar that is reflective of the growing diversity of our communities so that students from these various faiths have the opportunity to observe their religious traditions without sacrificing valuable time in the classroom.”
On a more local level, Diwali is recognized by the city, which suspends alternate-side parking rules on the third and most important day of the holiday.
Dromm introduced a resolution in the City Council on July 24 urging DOE to make Diwali an official holiday. Since then 15 City Council members have signed on as co-sponsors.
“Diwali is one of our community’s key celebrations and is deserving of the same respect from our school system as other religious days,” said Assemblyman Michel DenDekker.