HAF Joins Coalition to Urge NYC Mayor to include Diwali as New Public School Holiday
New York, NY (February 21, 2014) - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) joined a broad-based coalition of almost 40 organizations and temples urging New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to include Diwali alongside the new proposed public school holidays for Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Lunar New Year. Earlier this week, the coalition sent a letter to the Mayor, highlighting the importance of Diwali for the city's Hindu, Jain, and Sikh communities and asking the mayor to take into consideration the significant number of the city's public school children who celebrate this festival.
"We were surprised when the Mayor announced his proposal of three new public school holidays, but did not include Diwali amongst them,” said Sheetal Shah, HAF’s Manhattan-based Senior Director. "New York City is home to vibrant Hindu, Jain, and Sikh communities, who deserve to be treated on par with the city’s Muslim and Chinese communities."
HAF was in close contact with Congressman Joe Crowley (NY-14), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, who, along with Reps. Charles Rangel (NY-13), Grace Meng (NY-6), Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Yvette Clarke (NY-9), and Gregory Meeks (NY-5), came out in support of the inclusion of Diwali. In a letter to Carmen Farina, Chancellor of Education, spearheaded by Crowley, they noted the "increased recognition" Diwali has gained on the national stage. Crowley and other members hosted the first-ever Congressional Diwali celebration in 2013, and the White House has recognized Diwali under successive administrations.
Both letters also drew attention to the huge number of temples and gurdwaras in the five boroughs as well as the plethora of Diwali celebrations in the city that draw thousands each year. The Diwali Coalition also noted that last year the City Council of New York urged the Department of Education to “establish Diwali as an official school holiday for NYC public students” (Res. 1863-2013).
Organizations forming the Diwali coalition range the full spectrum, from faith-based national groups such as the International Jain Mission and Sikh Coalition to local faith-based organizations like Judson Memorial Church to interfaith organizations such as the Interfaith Center of New York.
“It has been an honor to devote our energies to bringing together so many diverse organizations, both Hindu and non-Hindu, in support of this cause,” said Brooklyn-based Sunita Viswanath, Board member of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus. “We hope the Mayor will note the broad-based support we’ve received and include Diwali as a public school holiday.”
The letter and full roster of the Diwali Coalition’s members can be found by clicking here.