HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Henrico County will observe three new religious holidays on their school calendar next year.
The 2020-21 county school calendar will include Yom Kippur, Diwali and Eid al-Fitr. The three religious holidays means students will be given three additional days off from school. It’s a move being celebrated by faith activists and leaders in the community, who say the county is growing in diversity.
“When you get a recognition as being a minority, it is always a good feeling,” said Zulf Khan, a community activist.
The first of three new religious holidays that students will have off is Yom Kippur, which falls on September 28, 2020. David Cohen, Jewish Community Federation of Richmond’s director of community media relations said the holiday is “one of what we call our high holy days, it’s also a day for many in the Jewish community of fasting.”
Students will then have off on November 13, 2020, for Diwali. The Hindu Festival of Lights celebrates the victory of good over evil.
Lastly, on May 13, 2021, schools will be closed to students for the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Fitr.
“It’s a celebration after a month of fasting,” Khan said, “and the month of fasting is a very, very important month.”
Khan says the change is important for the entire Henrico community.
“Not only for the Muslim children but for the children from other faiths,” he said. “They will be able to come to know that is who we are living with.”
Parents in Henrico County voted on two new calendar options for the 2020-21 school year. No matter which version is chosen, however, both include the three religious holidays.
David Cohen, of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, told 8News the organization worked hard to make Yom Kippur a student holiday recognized by schools.
“It’s one more thing to say, first of all, we feel appreciated by the school system, we feel understood by the school system,” Cohen said.
Khan echoes those sentiments, saying the change is good for the country, which has quickly grown in diversity.
“You feel that you are being welcomed in the community, that is a very important factor,” Khan said. “For the last 30 years, I have been here, I have seen the change.”