Crowley, Rangel, Meng, Meeks, Clarke and Maloney
NEW YORK (TIP): Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, along with Reps. Charles B. Rangel, Grace Meng, Gregory W. Meeks, Yvette D. Clarke, and Carolyn B. Maloney sent a letter, February 19, to NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña urging the Department of Education to include the festival of Diwali on the list of new public school holidays.
“We appreciate your consideration of school holidays that reflect our diverse city and ensure that students aren’t forced to choose between attending school and observing important holidays with their families,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter. Diwali, which marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year, is a festival of great significance to millions of Indians and Indian Americans and is widely celebrated amongst the 3 million-plus Indian-American community, as well as others.
Known as the festival of lights, Diwali is a time for thanksgiving and prayer for health, knowledge and prosperity. The festival is widely celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, as well as others. Crowley led his colleagues in creating the first-ever Congressional Diwali celebration in October 2013. The event brought together hundreds of celebrants – including members of Congress, prominent Indian leaders, and members of the Indian American community – to build a greater understanding of differing cultural backgrounds and increase understanding and tolerance.
In 2011, Crowley introduced a resolution to recognize Diwali and the strong and growing partnership between the U.S. and India. The full text of the letter to Chancellor Fariña is below: February 19, 2014 Carmen Fariña Chancellor, New York City Department of Education Tweed Courthouse 52 Chambers Street New York, NY 10007 Dear Chancellor Fariña, We understand that you are considering the designation of Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Lunar New Year as New York City public school holidays. As members of Congress representing constituents in New York City, we support a potential move to recognize these holidays and urge you to include the festival of Diwali on the list of new public school holidays.
For nearly a decade, Diwali has been gaining increased recognition throughout the United States. In fact, this year the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans celebrated the first-ever Congressional Diwali, and the White House has recognized the festival under successive administrations. In New York City, Diwali is celebrated by countless residents, including Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. The majority of New York’s Indian-Americans, which include not only those of direct South Asian origin but also those of Indian-Caribbean heritage, consider Diwali amongst their most significant holidays.
Further, New York City is home to several dozen temples and gurdwaras, some of which are among the largest in our nation. The numerous Diwali celebrations in the city, such as the popular South Street Seaport event, is a testament to the recognition and popularity of Diwali, attracting thousands from in and around the area. We appreciate your consideration of school holidays that reflect our diverse city and ensure that students aren’t forced to choose between attending school and observing important holidays with their families.
This is all the more important since members of the communities that celebrate Diwali not only contribute in countless ways to our great city, but their children also compose a sizeable and rapidly growing portion of our schools’ students.We hope to see them recognized by the designation of Diwali as a public school holiday. Sincerely, Joseph Crowley Charles B. Rangel Grace Meng Gregory W. Meeks Yvette D. Clarke Carolyn B. Maloney