New York State Assembly woman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-AD 38) and New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a city-state partnership initiative on October 20, 2022, to designate Diwali as a public school holiday in New York City.
Section 3604 of the State Education Law requires there to be a minimum of 180 days of instruction. Rajkumar’s bill removes one holiday, Anniversary Day, also known as Brooklyn-Queens Day, to make space for a Diwali holiday, the press release describes Anniversary Day as “an antiquated holiday” which was meant to recognize the anniversary of the founding of the first Sunday school in Brooklyn in the 1800s.
Noting how the values of Diwali about the triumph of good over evil and the human ability to overcome adversity, was celebrated by many communities including an estimated 200,000 South Asian and Indo-Caribbean New Yorkers, a school holiday marking the event was warranted.
For Indian Americans and other community activists who have been demanding this holiday for at least two decades, accommodating Diwali would be in line with other religious holidays like Yom Kippur, Christmas, Eid al-Fitr, and Lunar New Year, the press release says.
“People said that there was no room on the school calendar for Diwali. Today, my legislation makes the room, and the mayor joins with me to commit the New York City Department of Education to instituting the Diwali holiday,” Rajkumar is quoted saying in a press release from her office.
“Our time has come: our city will officially recognize South Asian and Indo-Caribbean New Yorkers, one of the fastest-growing communities in the city, which contribute to every facet of city life,” she added.
“Our public school calendar is not just a list of days off; it is a testament to New York City’s diversity, inclusiveness, and character,” said Mayor Adams. “That is why, as borough president and now as mayor, I’ve pushed to make our schools not only academically astute but emotionally intelligent as well. I am proud to partner with Assemblymember Rajkumar to announce my full-fledged support in adding Diwali to the holidays on our Department of Education calendar,” the Mayor added.
“Supporting the effort to make Diwali an official public school holiday is an acknowledgment of the way our city has grown and evolved, and it’s time for our commemorations to catch up,” said New York City Department of Education Chancellor David Banks.