By REBECCA GREENE
April 19 - The Glen Rock Public School district announced it will close on Diwali, a Hindu holiday, on Oct. 19, 2017 for the first time in its history.
In addition to Glen Rock, West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District and Piscataway Township Schools will close, as well.
In neighboring New York, six school districts have declared holiday for students on October 19, which include: East Meadow School District, East Williston Union Free School District, Half Hollow Hills Central School District, Herricks Union Free School District, Hicksville Union Free School District and Syosset Central School District. Mineola Union Free School District announced that no home work or examinations would be given on Diwali, according to published reports.
In Pennsylvania, Unionville-Chadds Ford School District headquartered in Kennett Square approved closure of schools on Diwali; while Harvard Public Schools in Massachusetts have declared October 19 as an “early release day”, reports indicate.
Nevada Hindu statesman Rajan Zed described the school closings for the holiday as a step in the right direction and urged all other public school districts and private-charter-independent schools in New Jersey to do the same.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, said it would be a positive thing to do in view of the substantial number of Hindu students at schools around the state.
Rajan Zed said schools should make efforts to accommodate the religious requirements of Hindu students and show respect to their faith by not conducting regular business and scheduling classes on Diwali.
"We did not want our students to be put at an unnecessary disadvantage for missing tests/examinations/papers, assignments, class work, etc., by taking a day-off to observe Diwali," he said.
"If schools had declared other religious holidays, why not Diwali," Zed said. "Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion."
Zed urged New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New Jersey State Board of Education President Mark W. Bierdon and New Jersey Department of Education Acting Commissioner Kimberley Harrington to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the public school districts in the state and persuade the private-charter-independent schools to follow.
Zed said Hinduism is "rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus."
According to Diwali tradition, the festival of lights dispells darkness and enlightens lives, symbolizing the victory of good over evil. Besides Hindus; Sikhs and Jains and some Buddhists celebrate Diwali, as well.
Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents with "moksh" or liberation as its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the USA.
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