Local Lawmaker Aims to Make Diwali a School Holiday

Some local lawmakers and community leaders are pushing for the recognition of Diwali as a public school holiday statewide. 

For Asha Bushun, teaching her son Kishan about their Hindu faith is a priority. She's frustrated the first grader was not off from school for India's largest holiday -Diwali.

"It's an important and religious holiday just like Christmas," said Bishun, who lives in South Ozone Park.

State Senator Leroy Comrie has introduced a bill to the state legislature that would establish Diwali as an official public school holiday in New York.

The push comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio added two Muslim holy days to the city school calendar earlier this year, causing many who celebrate Diwali to wonder why theirs wasn't included too.

Supporters first made their request under Mayor Michael Bloomberg who shot down the idea, saying it was impossible to add a holiday for every religion in a city as diverse as New York.

Comrie says it's an important issue with Census data showing more than 200,000 city residents are Asian-Indian, many of whom celebrate the holiday.

"It's important for kids to understand that their culture is respected and that they don't have to do anything that demeans them or makes them ostracized," said Comrie.

Diwali is the festival of lights, signifying faith overcoming evil. It's observed by people of Hindu, Jain and Sikh faiths.

"We are in this country for many many years, but we are not able to bring our culture back here," said Bellerose resident Satnam Singh Parher.

Diwali is a lunar celebration and lands on a different date every year. It typically falls within October or November.

The bill would require the Department of Education to designate a day off every year, based on when the holiday occurs.

"It was very difficult for me going to school seeing all of my Jewish friends celebrate their holidays, with the hope that eventually we'll be able to celebrate our holiday as well," said Anad Ramnarine from East Meadow, Long Island.

Mayor DeBlasio is undecided on the issue. Comrie hopes it will pass by the end of the legislative session.  

 

Charter Spectrum customers get full access
to all our video, including our live stream.
 

Tune to Spectrum New NY1 on TV, online, online, or on Local On Demand Channel 1020 for:

Road to City Hall, Mon.-Fri. at 7pm and 10pm
In Focus with Cheryl Wills, Sun. at 10:30am & 3:30pm
• On Stage, Sat.-Sun. 9:30am & 7:30pm + Tues. 12:30am
Sports on 1, nightly at 11:35pm and 4am