Queens: Diwali would be established as a school holiday in New York City under a legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar.
The holiday would be observed in school districts with significant populations that celebrate Diwali and honor the cultural heritage of hundreds of thousands of South Asian New Yorkers who celebrate the holiday, Queens media reported.
“As the first Hindu-American and South Asian-American woman elected to state office in New York, I take special pride in advocating for new American communities, including those that celebrate Diwali,” Rajkumar said. “The South Asian, Indo-Caribbean, Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist communities are a vital part of our city’s gorgeous mosaic, contributing to every sector of our society. It is long past time to honor their vibrant cultural heritage by making Diwali a school holiday, as community leaders have advocated for years. The time has come.”
“The thousands of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain families who celebrate Diwali deserve to mark the Festival of Lights as a complete unit with their children,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “Queens is proud to join Assemblywoman Rajkumar and all our elected officials who have signed onto this piece of legislation, which must be passed and signed into law as soon as possible.”
Since the early 2000s, community and faith leaders have called for New York to recognize the holiday. The City Council issued a resolution calling on the city Department of Education to establish Diwali as a school holiday. When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would approve Eid and Lunar New Year as school holidays, but not Diwali, activists formed the Diwali Coalition of NYC to push for change.
Assemblyman David Weprin said, “I am a proud co-sponsor of Assemblywoman Rajkumar’s bill which will bring a long-awaited change for the members of the Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities.”
Local groups have long advocated for this as well, including the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Queens, the National Advisory Committee for South Asian Affairs, The Sikh American Friendship Foundation and the Diwali Stamp Project.
The DC based Hindu American Foundation applauded Rajkumar for introducing the legislation.