Gov. Hochul signs NYC Diwali public school holiday bill into law

Governor Kathy Hochul with NY State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar at bill signing ceremony for Diwali public school holiday in NYC, Nov. 14, 2023. PHOTO:

More than 200,000 Public School students in New York City will now be able to have an official holiday to spend Diwali holiday with their families, starting in 2024.

Contrary to the popular confusion that Diwali was already a public school holiday in New York City, the bill of which Assembly person Jennifer Rajkumar was the prime sponsor, became an official law when Governor Kathy Hochul signed it on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Flushing.

In an official statement, Hochul said, “New York City is rich in different religions and cultures, ad we’re taking an important step to recognize and celebrate this diversity in the school calendar.” “This legislation to designate Diwali as a New York City school holiday is an opportunity for our children to learn about and celebrate traditions from across the world.”

Co-sponsored by close to 40 other sponsors over many years, the final version of the bill was also co-sponsored by State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who said Rajkumar had made the bill a special priority.

Rajkumar referred to her promise a year ago upon being elected, “to do the impossible” and make Diwali a public school holiday, according to the Queens Eagle. “And today, I’m proud to stand up for you and say we won,” “We made history,” the Eagle quoted futher, “We finally said to over 600,000, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain Americans across New York City, we see you.”

While signing the bill, Hochul mentioned that for many years it had been hard for South Asian New Yorkers to celebrate the important and meaningful holiday of Diwali as a family because the children were at school. The Eagle quoted Hochul saying the signing was ‘to say no more’.

According to Aminta Kilawan-Narine, founder of the South Queens Women’s March who has been a strong supporter of the bill, this signing into law must have confused many. She spoke about her own doubts regarding the bill, but was extremely happy that 2024 Diwali would be the first official holiday in public school.

For 2024, Diwali is marked in the school system as a holiday on November 1. In future years, it will be a school holiday if it falls on a weekday. However, for now, with so much political support for it, Diwali is finally going to be a public school holiday in New York City.



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