Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, asked the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school district on Monday to make Diwali a holiday on school calendars beginning in 2021.
Zed said in a statement that this would be “a step in a positive direction in view of … a substantial number of Hindu students in the school district area.”
Zed is asking that school districts make efforts to accommodate students’ religious requirements by not holding classes or any other business on Diwali. He specifically asked Board of Education President Jennifer Kerrane and Superintendent Jennifer Morrison to consider the action.
“We do 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,” the statement said.
District officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Zed told Blank Slate Media that the district was chosen because of the number of Hindu students but did not specify if he had been to the area before or how it came to his attention.
A news release on his website asks for the public schools in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, to adopt Diwali as a holiday as well.
According to his website, Zed is a “distinguished religious statesman who has taken up Hindu, interfaith, religion, environment, Roma and other causes all over the world.” But an article last year in The Christian Century said leaders of Hindu advocacy groups such as the Hindu American Foundation knew little about him.
Zed made headlines in 2007 for leading the U.S. Senate in its first Hindu prayer, which was momentarily interrupted by three Christian protesters from the audience.