Diwali now official holiday in Westbury, New York
The East Meadow School District in Westbury, New York will be adopting 'Diwali' as an official holiday from the next school calendar year. The announcement was welcomed by scores of Hindu families who previously shied away from letting their children take school holidays on the biggest Hindu festival of the year. This decision impacts 7,400 students across nine schools of East Meadow and Westbury.
Hindus in the US
Hinduism is the third largest and the oldest religion of the world which has nearly one billion adherents. In the United States, there are believed to be nearly three million practising Hindus.
Diwali Coalition of NYC
New York has one of the largest number of Hindus in the US. Asian-Indians constitute 2.4 percent of NYC's population and additional 100,000 Hindus of mixed racial or ethnic heritage: all of whom celebrate Diwali. In February 2014, 'Diwali Coalition of NYC' was formed to advocate for Diwali when holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha were approved as official NYC school-holidays.
Petition to the Mayor
The Diwali Coalition for NYC wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio and expressed their concern regarding omission of Diwali from public school holidays considering it's celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists. Rajan Zed, US-based Hindu religious leader, said it was unfair to Hindu students to attend school on Diwali; he added that no one should be penalized for practicing their religion.
Urging others to follow
President of Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, welcomed the decision to recognize Diwali as a public holiday. In his statement he called on over 700 public and private schools in New York district, to follow along the lines of East Meadow School District. He added that awareness of other religions would make New York state students "well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow."