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Queens Assemblymember Introduces Bill to Establish Diwali as School Holiday

Lighting candles and clay lamps during Diwali night (Photo: Courtesy of Khokarahman CC BY-SA 4.0)

May 11, 2021 By Christian Murray

A Queens lawmaker has introduced a bill in the state assembly that would establish Diwali as a school holiday.

Jenifer Rajkumar, who represents the 38th Assembly District in central Queens, says that it is time for Diwali to be recognized as a school holiday—and points to how Eid and the Lunar New Year were added to the school calendar by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015.

The law would apply to school districts where a sizeable population celebrate Diwali, known as the festival of lights. The holiday would therefore be observed in New York City, since the 5 boroughs is home to many groups that celebrate—such as Hindus, Sikhs, Jain and Buddhists.

Rajkumar, who is the first Hindu-American and South Asian-American woman elected to state office in New York, said that community and faith leaders have been calling for New York to recognize Diwali since the early 2000s.

She said that the South Asian, Indo-Caribbean, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist communities are a vital part of the city’s mosaic and their contribution needs to be recognized.

State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (Photo: Courtesy of Rajkumar)

“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.”

Many elected officials, community organizations and religious leaders support the legislation.

“I am a proud co-sponsor…,” said Assemblymember David Weprin. “The time has come to make Diwali a school holiday in New York City for the vibrant South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities.”

Meanwhile, the Hindu American Foundation issued a statement in support of the legislation.

“We urge the New York legislature to pass this measure and likewise urge the Governor to sign it into law,” the organization said in a statement. “The Hindu American community in New York City and across the Empire State have been asking the state to recognize us and our holidays so that our families and our children can celebrate our faith.”

The bill was introduced last month and has been referred to the education committee.

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