by Arzan Sam Wadia
The Zarathushti Diaspora migrating to North America started as a trickle in the ’50s, and later turned into a steady stream of educated, talented, ambitious and adventurous youth in search of a way to make a mark in a foreign land. The incentive was higher education, economic prosperity, and several other factors. These immigrants set roots in their new homeland, worked hard, excelled in their professions and personal lives, and spread the word of Zarathustra to a new continent. At the same time they maintained their roots with the mother ship, be it Bombay, India, or Tehran, Iran, and every location in between.
by Mantreh Atashband
Over the years, Zarathushtis have built a great reputation around being charitable and supportive to social causes in their own communities, and in society as a whole. Whether rallying to reconstruct an old school in Iran, or support a struggling family in India, the collective “we” always pull together. We pull together and donate our time, talent and treasure to help support initiatives greater than our own self-interest.
Many communities have the desire and will, to mobilize and support change, but can get flustered and agitated in the process for a variety of reasons. Looking for resources and the tools to aid in supporting any cause, can be a challenging task. And sometimes these issues can cause ripples in a community and within its members. When individuals and organizations do come together to work for a common or shared goal, it is not uncommon to see a scrambling over power, leadership, opinion and competing interests. Ultimately, the group needs to come to a consensus of moving toward true collaboration and team work – trust and transparency are critical ingredients to accomplishing a shared mission! (more…)
I first learned about Zoroastrians in the spring of 2007. I had heard the word, I was familiar with Thus Spake Zarathustra, but I didn’t know anything about the religion. That spring, I came across a flyer for a fire jumping ceremony that was taking place in the South Bronx section of New York. No one there was Zoroastrian, oddly enough. The guy hosting it was Iranian and simply enjoyed the meaning of the ceremony – to rid oneself of what’s holding you back and focus on the future.
A couple of years later, as a graduate student at Columbia University’s Journalism school, I needed to pick a topic for my Master’s project. Thinking back to the fire jumping ceremony, and the cursory research I did into Zoroastrians, I felt like there was an interesting story to tell. As a Jew, I know what it’s like to live in a community negotiating religious continuity. There are fewer Jewish families today engaged in the Jewish community, and many are working to find out how to reach those who are unaffiliated and get them to “choose Jewish.”
As I started to look deeper into the Zoroastrian community, I realized they shared many of the same issues as Judaism – only more so. (more…)
by Kamalrukh Katrak Karkaria
Some Zarathushtis, like Trity Pourbahrami of California, define “interfaith service” as “peace-building inititiatives.” “The first and most important role I play in interfaith settings is to listen without judgment and prejudice to what is being said,” she says. “The second role I play is to share experiences and understandings about my religion that enhances peace-building efforts and promotes interfaith dialogue.”
Others, like Rohinton Rivetna of Illinois, say that “interfaith” is simply “the interaction with faiths.” “An individual who is steeped in interfaith matters has the benefit of a very wide perspective. He or she has a better understanding of others; motivators and likewise the demotivators,” he explains. “Such an individual has a distinct advantage over others as growth and success of an individual are closely related to one’s ability to relate with others. There is then every possibility that an individual with interfaith exposure will stand at an advantage.” (more…)
by Farobag Homi Cooper
The World Zarathushti Symphony Orchestra (WZSO), founded by Farobag Homi Cooper and Cyrus Mehta, made its début at the 2000 World Congress in Houston. Featuring a unique mixture of young and seasoned professionals, the WZSO is now a regular highlight at Congresses.
The World Zarathushti Symphony Orchestra’s performances at FEZANA and World Congresses are always proclaimed as highlights. Although we are pleased, I believe its entertainment value – much desired and appreciated – is a by-product.
More than simply an ensemble of Zarathushtis, the WZSO’s aims are somewhat loftier. It strives to enhance the cultural atmosphere during Congresses; but also serves as a conduit for amateurs and aspiring professionals to gain unique experiences and perceptions that develop only through performing with a professional orchestra. After all, where else can our Zarathushti musicians have the opportunity to sit side-by-side with members of the Houston Symphony, Chicago Philharmonia or Toronto Philharmonic? (more…)
by Jim Engineer
Chances are if you know Dr. Niaz Kasravi, you know you have a friend, a leader, and a mentor. For those who don’t know her, there couldn’t be a better time to briefly shine a spotlight on the life of the selfless and conscience-driven Kasravi, who represents and leads her generation by example.
Currently an Independent Consultant to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Washington, D.C., Kasravi earned a doctorate in Criminology, Law & Society from the University of California at Irvine, where she also earned a Master of Arts in Social Ecology, and Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Criminology, and Psychology & Social Behavior.
But it’s not just her extensive education that makes her story compelling – it’s her passion for social justice and human rights that transcends every corner of her life. Most notably and arguably, she has been influenced and affected by the incredible life of Shirin Ebadi. (more…)
by Diana Damkevala Gazdar
Our religion has long been sustained by genealogy and cultural tradition. Genealogy can be a source of inspiration, promoting feelings of family, identity, community; and connection to something larger. But genealogy cannot be a religion’s soul, which lies in the spirituality of its following.
We Zarathushtis entangle ourselves with genealogy, so it’s unsurprising that interfaith marriage is among our most polarizing topics. Whether these unions defy tradition, whether the children “dilute” the religion, or whether acceptance is necessary to counterbalance ever-decreasing numbers, I can find no right or wrong, as both viewpoints share the same fear: the slow demise of our religion. (more…)
by Lylah M. Alphonse
Zoroastrianism is known as “The Religion of Good Conscience,” built firmly on a foundation of good words, good thoughts, and good deeds, its followers encouraged to exercise free will and accept responsibility for their actions. A devout Zarathushti is supposed to progress toward enlightement by consciously choosing to do good. With all of the emphasis on choice and free will in our religion, I cannot understand the push to exlude those who truly want to share our faith – or worse, to reject children born to a Zarathushti parent who decided to marry outside the religion. (more…)
by Roshni Kharoliwalla
“Intermarriage.” This word brings up what may be the most important and the most controversial issue the Zarathushti community faces today. Should intermarriage be accepted and promoted? This question baffles many and in some cases even tears families and communities apart.
After the fall of the Sasanian empire, some Zarathushtis, to escape Arab persecution moved to China, Central Asia, Punjab and even as far as Europe. Over time they intermarried and lost their distinct religious and ethnic identity and faded away. The only group that survived was the Parsis, which came to Sanjan on the Gujarat coast. Though they compromised on certain social and cultural issues — such as giving up the Persian language (Farsi) for Gujarati, laying down weapons, adopting Indian dress, etc — they refused to compromise on religious issues, such as wearing sudreh kusti, Atash parasti (reverence for fire), marrying only within the fold and not converting others to the Faith, and Manthravani (praying in the original language of the Avesta). The Parsis not just survived in India, but actually flourished because they decided not to tamper with the fundamental ground rules they had laid down for their survival as a religious and ethnic community. (more…)
by Jim Engineer
image credit: sani photo
“I’m so three thousand and eight, you so two thousand and late!” chant Fergie and the Black-Eyed Peas in their hit song “Boom Boom Pow.”
Perhaps no song captures the fast-paced, always-on spirit of the next generation. And not to over-hype the Peas, but it was no surprise that Barack Obama invited them to perform at his inaugural concert on HBO last January. And who could forget Election night’s first-ever hologram interview of Peas frontman Will.i.am?
Not since the social revolution of the 1960s, led by JFK and MLK, have we seen such symbolic generational shifts in politics and culture. I was lucky to attend President Obama’s election night speech Nov. 4, 2008, with 250,000 fellow teary-eyed, inspired, and motivated supporters. (more…)