All 24 Middlesex County school districts should close on the Diwali holiday | Opinion
By Rajan Zed
Hindus are urging for a Diwali holiday in all 24 public school districts of Middlesex County. Schools have declared holidays around other religious days, so why not Diwali?
Although traditions vary, Diwali celebrations usually include families and friends gathering for worship at home shrines and visiting the temple. Additionally, there are feasts, the sharing of gifts, decorating hands with henna designs, fireworks, and the lighting of diyas — small lamps usually made from clay that symbolizes goodness and purity. Lighting them denotes triumph over darkness, connecting to the light. We also draw intricate, colorful designs called rangolis and place them around the home to honor the festival and welcome good luck.
Holidays of all major religions should be celebrated and honored, and no one should be penalized for practicing their faith.
Establishing a holiday on Diwali in all Middlesex County school districts will be a step in the right direction to meet the religious and spiritual needs of Hindu students, who make up a significant portion of the population in the county.
Currently, only eight schools in the district will close on Oct. 24, the most popular day of the Diwali celebration in 2022. East Brunswick, Edison, Monroe, North Brunswick, Piscataway, Sayreville, West Windsor Plainsboro and South Brunswick will honor the holiday. However, schools in Carteret, Cranbury, Dunellen, Highland Park, Jamesburg, Metuchen, Middlesex Borough, Milltown, New Brunswick, Old Bridge, Perth Amboy, South Amboy, South Plainfield, South River, Spotswood and the Woodbridge school district will remain open.
We Hindus feel it is unfair for Hindu students in these school districts to attend school on their most popular festival day while schools are closed for religious holidays in different faiths.
Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil. It is vital for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home with their children; closing schools on Diwali will ensure that they can spend this time together. It will also display how respectful and accommodating these schools are to their faith.
We suggest these remaining school districts in Middlesex County consider Diwali an official holiday, thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. Awareness about ‘other’ religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali will make their students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.
We thank superintendents and school boards in East Brunswick, Edison, Monroe, North Brunswick, Piscataway, Sayreville, West Windsor Plainsboro and South Brunswick school districts for declaring a holiday honoring Diwali 2022 and for understanding the concerns of the Hindu community.
Hinduism is the world’s oldest and third largest religion, with about 1.2 billion adherents, and Moksh — liberation — is its ultimate goal. There are about 3 million Hindus in the US
Rajan Zed is the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism.
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