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Diwali Requested Again to be Bernards School Holiday

Parent approaches Bernards Board of Education as school officials prepare to re-examine future school calendars.

For more than a year, parents and some students who are Indian-American have attended Board of Education meetings with the persistent request that school officials make Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, into a day off from school so that their children might fully partake of the holiday.

Monday's meeting, the annual reorganization of the school board, was no exception. One parent, Rippi Karda, told the board about how her daughters' enjoyment of a family-oriented day was hampered by their worry about showing up at school the next day without having completed the work that their classmates have done.

Karda said she explained that the school does not require students to do homework on the day of a religious holiday. Diwali this year fell in November.

Still, she said her elementary school student asked her what would happen when she had not practiced her words in class or was prepared in other ways for school, as were the other children.

During Monday's meeting, Board Member Beverly Cwerner reported the board's policy committee will be looking at starting the school year earlier, and ending earlier in future school years, as well as reviewing such issues as a request to add the Indian holiday of Diwali to the school calendar.

And even before Karda spoke, two other parents, Michele Cappola and Karen Gray, had made comments on the issues of school holidays.

Cappola said that although she respects those who want to practice their religions, she said the district should stop scheduling days off for individual religious holidays. She said she herself would be willing to give up holidays such as a day off for Good Friday.

She later said that she specifically was referring to all religious holidays, not just Good Friday.

Gray said she wanted to raise the idea of a "floating religious holiday" that students could observe as appropriate with their families.

Karda, who lives in The Hills, said her family had moved to Bernards Township for the schools and the diversity of the community. She said her family also recognizes Christmas and Hanukkah in her home, and said her daughters respect their friends' religions. She said she would like for her daughters' religion to receive the same respect in the school, and an understanding of Diwali would enrich the "melting pot" in the school system.

As have other speakers, Karda said that the township's demographic study shows that about nine perecent of the township's population is of Indian background. "That's not an insignificant number."

Laura January 11, 2013 at 12:17 AM
For the next two school years, (as it was in past years), there is only one day off for the Jewish holidays, but there are 3 days of important Jewish holidays (actually many more, including Passover). So Jewish kids, and teachers, do miss at least one day taking off for Yom Kippur, and as Rosh Hashana is traditionally a two day holiday, many miss a second for that too. So taking one day off for Diwali or any other holiday presents no greater problem for those students. The key is to educate the district to make sure teachers schedule tests etc. to minimize problems for anyone absent for religious observance, and to communicate with your child's teacher. The kids who fast for Ramadan or can't eat bread on Passover, or have school the day after a late night Seder, all make adjustments, as they will do in the workplace someday.
RC January 11, 2013 at 02:22 AM
Well said Laura, and that should close out the comments on this thread. You have said it best with compromises on both sides. BOE adhering to a lighter work load and parents managing the decision for their children to attend school the following day can make adjustments. If parents choose to keep their children home, they can spend one of the built in days students are allowed to miss school. This should also end the distractions at the BOE meetings. Thanks Laura
HBSR January 11, 2013 at 03:08 AM
Laura, since you are being so practical and want other ethnic groups to adjust as they will do in workplace someday - recommend to the BOE that they take away all the religious holidays and the half day before Thanksgiving, Christmas etc. children will learn to adjust as they have to anyway learn to do it someday. My friend - the school is legally supposed to be open only for 180 days out of the 352 days in a year. The problem people have here on this thread is that they want to be stuck on with their old school of thoughts and just do not want to embrace other ethnic groups. Nobody is asking for a school day to be reduced, all that is being asked is for other holidays to be adjusted to accommodate the 1 main day of Diwali (although Diwali is celebrated over 5 days). Even if other ethnic groups ask for a day off, our township can still function as well as it has been in the past and have a 180 day school calendar. Our township is doing so well because of the diversity we have around and not because of certain number or sect of people so let's help the BOE decide in favor of the holiday and move on to other topics.
HBSR January 11, 2013 at 03:30 AM
Linda, attached is the link to the website with the Somerset County District Calendar. Please do feel free to distribute this to people who cannot navigate to the calendar page so they can see in black and white, Bernards township is the only township with the one week February break ending with a last date around June 26th. http://www.co.somerset.nj.us/schools/
n January 11, 2013 at 03:40 AM
@HBSR, I thought there was only 365 days/year(366 for leap year)? I guess HBSR should've spent more time in school instead of taking time off for a holiday.
n January 11, 2013 at 03:50 AM
@Basking Ridge, I don't know where you got your fun facts, but I'm sure you are wrong on the % of Jewish residents. Let your kids take all the days off you want, just make sure they are prepared for their classes when they go back to school.
HBSR January 11, 2013 at 04:03 AM
N- U r just too funny :) I sure spent many more years than you did attending school/college, that is one reason why I am here explaining to people like "N" on why Diwali should be given a holiday as I did learn about global culture and not only the culture of the country I grew up in....wonder when people like you will ever grow up :)
n January 11, 2013 at 04:40 AM
@HBSR, I'm glad you think I'm funny, because I don't think you are. For a person who claims to have so much education, I would of thought you would know how to spell "you are", instead of "U r", and "I sure spent many more years than you", could've been written by a third grader. By the way, you are not "explaining to people like "N" on why Diwali should be given a holiday", you are just pushing your opinion. Please, before you comment anymore, maybe you can take a ESL class, since you must of missed that class during your "many more years of college".
Miles January 11, 2013 at 01:44 PM
HBSR: "that they want to be stuck on with their old school of thoughts"....this is the most insulting comment I've actually seen on this thread. My deepest apologies for still embracing the traditions and holidays that my country has honored and kept for the past 200 years. So, it sounds like, you think we should get rid of all these ridiculous "old school" holidays and add new ones. Ridiculous.
NL January 11, 2013 at 01:59 PM
Miles...agree! HBSR is the one who said "Let's respect others to be respected" but then goes on to criticize our celebration of Thanksgiving and Christimas holidays. Both ridiculous and hypocritcal.
BR January 11, 2013 at 02:12 PM
Dear Miles, I think you're not reading it correctly. What HBSR is trying to say is that if you really wanted to be fair and let children learn how to make adjustment in real life then mind as well take away all the religious holidays. HBSR is not referring that old school holidays be taken away and it should be replaced with new ones.
Mexico January 11, 2013 at 06:56 PM
HBSR and Ester are hostile in tone. Yes, Americans want their country as they grew up. We take off for Christmas Break which includes New Year. Will you start going after Novartis for doing the same? Or just a public school board? Many immigrants, including myself, moved her for America and what it offers. For how it is. I am happy to blend with America not try to change it. You are in a different country stop spit on it. You talk about Americans like they are dogs. It is sad what HSBR represents, hatred. Putting down Americans for how you found them. No one forced you to move here. I am happy to be new to the country. Stop writing with this Bozo. And Ester, the quick commentary is not even worth noting. I love this country. The special days in my culture are not off from school I do for my family what I need. Forget writing them it is not worth it. I love America.
Italian Dad January 11, 2013 at 07:26 PM
All this talk about how those against Diwali being on the school calendar; cant embrace diversity, make an adjustment, feel sorry for you, ignorant, are less educated, disingenuous, want things a certain way because it will hurt their pocketbook, internet shop on good friday says to me that the Indian Community that is spitting this venom have not embraced where they have moved to, made the adjustment, been educated on those who celebrate the Christian and Jewish holidays, can't mix with the American population they moved in with. I never looked at the Indian community like this before. Very sad to read that there is so much hatred for the country they moved to. Thank you Mexico for the immigrants voice of someone who loves being here. My parents came from Italy we were brought up with the American traditions as well as our own. Thanksgiving has become one of our favorite holidays. I love that my parents learned English and have friends of all cultures here in America. I think the writers who are anti American should take their own advice and turn their word on themselves. What a terrible way to represent their culture. You are right Mexico writing them is not worth it.
BusyMom January 11, 2013 at 08:40 PM
Wow, that's a lot of comments! I carefully read all of them, sometimes I got the feeling that people just refuse to hear each other. What I learnt is that Indian community (or maybe I should say Aisan, since not only Indians celebrate it) wants Diwali to become an official day off in Basking Ridge schools and is very upset that other 90% do not like this idea. I got the feeling that people who would like Diwali to become an official day off ascribe protest of others to their ignorance and intolerance to other cultures. The part of the community that opposes the day off, on the other hand, has nothing against Diwali per say, they just don't like to deal with the consequences which are kids missing a day of learning, making child care arrangements or taking an unnecessary day off from work, and etc. I tried to educate myself on how Diwali is celebrated. From what I learned, Diwali is a religious holiday that consists of 3 to 5 days of celebration and it is an official holiday in number of Asian countries. And please correct me if I wrong, the celebration include cleaning the house (which is done on the first day), decorating the house with traditional motifs. And on the most important day of a festival, which is being requested as a day off, people wear new clothes, burn lamps at night, eat traditional meal and exchange gifts. I am sorry, but I don't understand why it is so important to have a full day off for that.
BusyMom January 11, 2013 at 08:57 PM
I'm just finishing my comment:) So, after school hours are not enough for above mentioned activities? I could understand orthodox christians asking for a day off on some religious holidays, celebration of which includes a special All-Night Vigil that is celebrated from late at night on the eve of the feast until early the next morning. And it is usually followed by a breakfast feast shared together by the congregation. I don't say I would support it, I'm just saying I could understand it. It's hard to go to school if you spent the whole night in a church. I case of Diwali, I think it's reasonable to ask not to give kids home work on that day and not to schedule any tests on a day of Diwali and the day after.
V January 12, 2013 at 01:37 AM
HSBC Why do you say this township is doing so well because of its diversity? That's just politically correct nonsense! The anger this thread and the mosque application are generating are just a few examples of how diversity is starting to affect this town negatively
baskridge January 12, 2013 at 03:25 AM
As a third generation American, I absolutely love the diversity in this town. Appalled at some of the comments. Sorry to see how some people are taking it too far with the insults. Everybody posting mean spirited and nasty comments in the name of a healthy discussion should restrain themselves from doing that. As someone suggested.........time to turn the lights out on this one.
BRCIT January 12, 2013 at 03:32 PM
BusyMom - Your forgot to find in your research, that Hindus - for whom this is a high religious holiday and who make up more than 90% of the BR population - have on each of the these days religious prayers and services that are done at the beginning and at the end of each day. While the services are smaller and more informal in the preceding days ,the day of Diwali - wearing new clothes, distributing gifts and all the things you mention - are but a celebration - the most important event as I know growing with people of the Hindu faith and observing their practices, is the prayer service - the main Pooja. It's not all eating , dressing up and cleaning the home. And by the way - the eating on a big religious day is more often than not preceded by a day of fasting by many.
BRCIT January 12, 2013 at 03:33 PM
I mean -90% of the Indian population in BR
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) January 12, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Perhaps it is time to bring respectful comments before the Board of Education, since they are discussing future calendars at this time. The next scheduled meeting is 7 p.m. on Jan. 28 at the William Annin Middle School.
JR January 12, 2013 at 04:09 PM
It is called religious tolerance. One who does not care just about her/his own religion but respects the others too and expects the same from everyone else.
Linda January 14, 2013 at 03:00 PM
I couldn't agree more!
Linda January 14, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Finally, someone gets it!!!!
Linda January 14, 2013 at 03:04 PM
So funny!
Linda January 14, 2013 at 03:05 PM
Well said!
Linda January 14, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Obviously you don't have students in the High School.
b flake January 15, 2013 at 12:01 AM
Keep your kids home on Diwali if its that important to you, make up for the time by hiring your own tutor for your kids so they can do school work over Christmas.
b flake January 22, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Basking Ridge has thousands of squirrels, accordingly I believe the kids should have a formal holiday for National Squirrel Appreciation Day.
Linda January 23, 2013 at 02:22 AM
This is a very slippery slope... after Diwali is added, then Chinese New Year, then Halloween.... you are right it will be Squirrel Appreciation Day! They have the numbers and apparently that is most important. This is a PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM people! You want YOUR religious days off? Go to a Religious School! Let's get back to Separation of Church & State... what America is founded in.. you have rights to go elsewhere....
Life is like a golf course June 18, 2013 at 02:54 AM
Whoa! Who said ALL South Asians want Diwali off? Diwali is a HINDU holiday and not all South Asians are Hindu - there are Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Mulsims, Zorastrians and Christans (Catholics) plus some more that I am sure I am missing. I say we stick to educating our kids and stop trying to accommodate every religion. BTW, as far as I know Karda is a Sikh name, so not sure why Ms Karda is fighting for a Hindu holiday - maybe just wants to sleep in after a night of partying!!!

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