Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday signed legislation that makes Diwali a school holiday for New York City public schools.
Legislation S.7574/A.7769 requires that all public schools in New York City be closed on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Indian calendar in each year, which is known as Diwali.
“New York City is rich in different religions and cultures, and we’re taking an important step to recognize and celebrate this diversity in the school calendar,” Gov. Hochul said. “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.”
Legislation S.7574/A.7769 amends the education law to declare Diwali a holiday for New York City public schools.
Many people of the Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist faiths in New York City and throughout the state observe the festival of Diwali, and more than 1 billion people around the world celebrate this holiday.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo said, “I truly appreciate Gov. Hochul’sapproval to acknowledge Diwali as a school holiday. I also commend my friend, Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar for her initiative on passing this legislation in the Assembly and working my legislative team in passing my bill in the Senate.
“Diwali is a joyous occasion that holds immense significance for millions of people around the world and in our state,” he added. “As we come together to commemorate this festival, we are reminded of the Diwali holiday’s message – the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.
“In this time of local and global racism and anger, Diwali’s message is critically important and needed. The Diwali celebration not only represents the rich cultural heritage of our diverse community, but also serves as a reminder of the values that bind us together. It reminds us of the importance of compassion, kindness, and understanding in our interactions with one another,” Addabbo continued. “May this Diwali bring you and your loved ones an abundance of joy, prosperity, and good health.
“Let us strive to embrace the spirit of Diwali not only during this festive season but also in our daily lives, by spreading love, light, and happiness to those around us,” he said. “Once again, thank you Gov. Hochul for spreading the positive message of Diwali.”
Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar said, “I was proud to lead and win the fight for the Diwali School Holiday this year. Today, my historic Diwali bill is officially signed into law.
“As the first Indian-American and first Hindu elected to New York State Office, I thank Gov. Hochul for signing my momentous bill,” she said. “For over two decades, the South Asian community has lobbied for the Diwali holiday. With the signing of my bill, we have lit an everlasting lamp in the hearts and minds of all New Yorkers.
“This is an achievement that will outlive me,” she added. “Generations of New Yorkers to come will now observe Diwali, the Festival of Lights. By signing my bill, we say to over 600,000 Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist New Yorkers, ‘We see you, we recognize you, and Diwali is an American holiday.’”
New American Voter Association President Dr. Dilip Nath said, “It is hard to overstate the many ways by which the Hindu, Jain, and Sikh communities contribute to our state. I am proud to see Gov. Kath Hochul finally fulfilling a long past Diwali recognition holiday into a law. On the day of the Diwali so no student will have to choose between celebrating with their family or their school obligations.”
Indian Diaspora Council International President Ashook Ramsaran said, “The Indian Diaspora Council International commends NYS Governor Kathy Hochul and the NYS Legislature for approving Diwali as an NYC school holiday, along with steadfast support from NYC Mayor Eric Adams.
“This is a significant achievement following decades of grassroots efforts in New York,” he added. “IDC is pleased that Diwali has become a national celebration in the White House, several state houses and city councils. Diwali is the ‘triumph of light over darkness, of good over evil’ and its lessons are more relevant as turmoil, inhumanity and divisiveness impact many people worldwide.”
Khalsa Community President Japneet Singh said, “This is a very special occasion for the entire South Asian diaspora. For the Sikhs, Diwali signifies Liberation. It was the day on which our 6th Guru, Guru Hargobind was released from prison. But not just by himself, he advocated for the release of 52 Hindu Kings who were wrongfully imprisoned as well.
“Hence, for Sikhs this festival of Diwali signifies Bandi Chhor Divas or ‘prisoner release day,’” he added. “We use this day to honor and remember all those who continue to face oppression and recommit to standing up for justice any and everywhere. And with the signing of this historic bill by the governor, it will help the communities that celebrate Diwali to finally educate their friends and peers on the significance it holds for us. Growing up attending NYC public schools, I always was conflicted of choosing my education or my faith. But now the next general of South Asians will have the opportunity to choose both and that’s a very special thing for us all.”
Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad New York President Bhajan Sarker said, “This is exciting news for Hindu Community across New York and we thank Gov. Kathy Hochul for signing the Diwali Bill. The 300k New Yorkers who celebrate Diwali are now able to celebrate it with their entire families without being forced to forgo sending their children to school.”
Nepali Community Leader and Executive Member of the Hami Nepali NabarajKC said, “On behalf of the Nepali Community we are profoundly grateful to our beloved Gov. Kathy Hochul for recognizing the Hindu community and Diwali festival of lights.