The years of advocating for Diwali to be declared an official school holiday in New York City, which was long overdue, has come to a fruition. Mayor Eric Adams’ message, “Diwali will be a public school holiday in New York City starting 2023”, to a diverse populace of over 2,00,000 Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs has ignited fireworks for Diwali 2022 in the Big Apple.
“This is an educational moment because when we acknowledge Diwali, we are going to encourage Children to learn about Diwali. We’re going to have them start talking about what it is to celebrate the festival of lights, and how to turn the light on within yourself. I learned so much about Diwali and what the festival of lights means,” said Mayor Eric Adams in the presence of Randhir Jaiswal, the Consul General of India in New York, and Indian American Jennifer Rajkumar, a New York Assembly Member yesterday.
“New York City, the most diverse cultural capital of America, hosts Indian Independence Day and Diwali events with pomp at Times Square every year. So diverse is the social fabric of the Big Apple that over 42% of the school goers come from ethnic households where English is the second language. The Empire City has been home to the booming Indian community since before JJ Singh, a businessman from Punjab, got Indian immigrants’ right to naturalized US citizenship recognized by President Harry Truman’s approval to the Luce-Cellar Act, 1946 that further led to the removal of the quota on Indian immigration to the US in the 1960s,” said Sourav Agarwal, the Editor of Travel Beats, a leading community portal for Indians in the US.
“Our time has come. For over two decades, South Asians and Indo-Caribbeans have been fighting for the Diwali school holiday in New York. I stand firm with them and for their mission. And we are finally going to realize that goal,” said Jennifer Rajkumar, the first Indian American woman in the New York State Assembly. She added, “Diwali is a celebration of the Hindu principles of interfaith, harmony, love, peace, and tolerance. The same principles had inspired Martin Luther King, the great American civil rights hero.”
The legislation that Jennifer Rajkumar brought to the state assembly last week puts Diwali on New York City’s public school holiday list and seeks removal of the Anniversary Day from the school calendar. Her move came in view of the little room left for another school holiday on the city school calendar that cannot accommodate Diwali unless the Anniversary Day, “an obscure and antiquated day” is removed to have compulsory 180 days of school instruction. She assures that this will be done to institute Diwali as a school holiday in New York City early in 2023.
New Jersey is more liberal than New York as far as Indian immigrants’ right to having a school holiday on their religious festivals is concerned. New Jersey school holiday lists incorporated as many as 19 major Hindu festivals including Diwali, Pongal, Onam, Ganesh Chaturthi, Dussehra, Guru Purnima, Makar Sankranti, Raksha Bandhan, and Maha Shivaratri. Before Jennifer Rajkumar, Indian American Senator Kevin Thomas sought an amendment to the New York school holiday lists so that Diwali, Onam, and Vaisakhi could be accommodated for Indians across the state in his bill S4038.
“We’re happy for our customers from New York City, who celebrate Diwali away from their extended family, friends, and relatives in India. Many Indian families travel to India during the Christmas Holiday season. Having a day off for Diwali, children of Indian households in the Big Apple will be able to spend the day learning the significance of the festival of lights,” said the chief customer relations officer of Indian Eagle Travel, a most trusted air-ticketing partner of Indians in America.