Community Urges City Council To Make Diwali Official Holiday

Members of the Indian-American community in New York City are urging the City Council to support the idea of Diwali as a permanent official holiday in the city schools. A resolution calling upon the New York City Department of Education to establish Diwali as an official holiday for public schools is among issues to be discussed at the council’s Committee on Education meeting Nov. 22.

“We expressed in a letter to the mayor, sent on Feb. 19, 2014, our serious concern over the omission of Diwali, celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs, from the proposed public school closing holidays,” a petition filed by the Diwali Coalition says.

The Diwali Coalition of NYC was formed in February 2014 to advocate for the holiday after Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the approval of additional public holidays. Now, the public school calendar includes holiday closures for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.

According to the petition, there are approximately 2.5 million Hindus in the United States, and New York City is home to one of the largest within this population. According to the latest census, Asian Indians constitute 2.4 percent of the city’s population and celebrate Diwali. This percentage does not include the estimated 100,000 Hindus of Indo-Caribbean heritage, or countless Hindus of either mixed and other racial and ethnic ancestry, who also consider Diwali amongst their holiest of holidays.

Councilman Daniel Dromm whose district covers Jackson Heights and other areas where Hindus live in significant numbers, has been among those pushing for declaring Diwali a public holiday.

The New York City Department of Education, with Carmen Farina as the chancellor, is the largest school district in the U.S., serving 1.1 million students in more than 1,800 schools.