Hindu, Jain, and Sikh New Yorkers Urge Mayor to Include Diwali amongst New Public School Holidays

New York, NY (March 9, 2015) - The Diwali Coalition of New York, a growing interfaith coalition, sent a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urging him to include Diwali amongst the new public school holidays announced last week. Mayor de Blasio announced two new public school holidays for the Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

“Last year, members of the Coalition met with the Mayor’s Commissioner of Community Affairs and his team to discuss the importance of Diwali to the Hindu, Jain, and Sikh communities,” said Sheetal Shah, HAF’s New York City-based Senior Director. “It comes as an unwelcome surprise and disappointment that though the administration expressed its desire to be inclusive of all faith communities, Diwali was still omitted.”

In its letter, the Coalition noted that last December, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that “calls for school districts to consider closing schools on holidays that are important to groups accounting for at least 7.5% of the population. In Queens alone, 57% of the population is of Asian ancestry, including an estimated 60% of the city’s total number of Hindus and highest Sikh population of any neighborhood in New York.”

The letter further highlighted the 2013 resolution passed by the City Council that “urged the Department of Education to ‘establish Diwali as an official school holiday for NYC public students’ (Res. 1863-2013).” In New Jersey, districts such as South Brunswick and Passaic observe Diwali as a school holiday, and last month, Glen Rock district in Bergen County joined them.

Shah is awaiting a response from the Commissioner of Community Affairs, Marco Carrion, about a request for another meeting with Coalition members. Additionally, Shah sent a copy of the letter to the Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, and City Council Member Daniel Dromm, who had been supportive of the inclusion of both the Muslim holidays and Diwali.

A copy of the letter can be found here.