Category Archives: News

In New York: A new year for Zoroastrians, a new challenge

Members of the Dar-e-Mehr Zoroastrian Temple in Pomona get ready for their new year celebration as they worry about the Trump travel ban

Report by Peter Carr/ The Journal News

New City’s Marzie Jafari looks forward to an annual family ritual tied to her Zoroastrian faith: Every vernal equinox, she calls her family in Iran to wish them happy Persian New Year, or Norwuz.

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Marzie Jafari, a trustee at the Dar-e-Mehr Zoroastrian Temple in Pomona March 22, 2017. (Photo: Peter Carr/The Journal News)

Before long, the conversation always turns to when they’ll see each other again.

But not this year.

“It comes to your mind that you’ll have some family gathering,” Jafari said. “But now, when you think about it, uh-oh, there’s this travel ban in the background. What is going to happen? Can we plan in advance for the summertime? We don’t know.”

This year, in that time when that phone conversation would have turned to the coming summer, there was silence on both ends of the phone.

“They didn’t want to say anything to upset me, I didn’t want to say anything to upset them,” Jafari said, her voice catching the slightest bit. “So we didn’t talk about a near-future gathering.”

President Donald Trump has signed two executive orders banning travel from predominantly Muslim nations, including Iran, where Jafari’s family still lives.

"They have stopped taking appointments for visas," Jafari said.

Her niece, a top student at the University of Tehran, had an internship in the States last summer. This year, Bahar — her name means "spring" — missed the deadline to apply for another internship because of the uncertainty triggered by the ban, which is now working its way through the courts.

‘New day’

When spring came to Rockland County at 6:20 a.m. on March 20, 2017, it was greeted, as always, with a New-Year’s-Eve-style countdown by the region’s Zoroastrians, including Marzie Jafari.

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Ferzin Patel, a trustee at the Dar-e-Mehr Zoroastrian Temple in Pomona March 22, 2017.

Local followers of what is believed to be the world’s oldest monotheistic religion face Nowruz — literally “new day” — with a mix of hope, pride and uncertainty.

There is hope in the new year’s renewal, the turning of a page.

There is pride in a gleaming new temple (or dar-e-mehr) and community center in Ramapo, where Jafari and her friend Ferzin Patel are trustees.

A Nowruz table is set with seven items – traditionally, apples, grass, dried sumac berries, dried fruit of the oleaster tree, coins, garlic and a semolina pudding – signifying renewal, love, kindness, service and rebirth. All seven of the symbols begin with an “s” sound, and the table is called a "Haft-sin" – for seven "S". This is the haft-sin table Marzie Jafari set for her Nowruz celebration in New City this year.

There is uncertainty in the impact of the travel ban, which has cast a pall over future travel to America by family members from Iran.

Zoroastrians welcome each vernal equinox, the start of spring, with family and symbols of renewal – no matter what time the equinox arrives. This year, spring arrived at 6:20 a.m. In 2012, the equinox was at 1:14 a.m., meaning that Zoroastrians began their Nowruz celebrations at that hour. They read from their holy book and greet the new year in new clothes.

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A table is set with seven items – apples, grass, dried sumac berries, dried fruit of the oleaster tree, coins, garlic and a semolina pudding — signifying renewal, love, kindness, service, rebirth. All seven of the symbols begin with an “s” sound, and the table is called a "Haft-sin" — for seven "S". As the day progresses, there are visits to family, and elders bestow money on children.

A milestone

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The Dar-e-Mehr Zoroastrian Temple in Pomona March 22, 2017.

On Saturday, the region’s Zoroastrians will gather at the temple for a Nowruz celebration, a dinner for 400.

The prayer room at the Dar-e-Mehr Zoroastrian Temple in Pomona March 22, 2017.

On Sunday, they will gather again to mark the one-year anniversary of their temple, technically a “dar-e-mehr” or “door to peace” – on Pomona Road, just down the hill from Palisades Credit Union baseball stadium.

The gleaming square building with an impressive collonaded portico is the Dar-e-Mehr Zoroastrian Temple, or DMZT. It is the meeting place and sanctuary for some 1,000 followers of Zoroastrian faith from across the tri-state area.

In the year since it opened, the temple has become the community center it was envisioned to be:

One religion; two branches

Before there were Christians and Muslims and Jews, there were Zarathushtis, as its followers are called, after their prophet Zarathustra.

 

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Marzie Jafari, left, and Ferzin Patel, trustees at the Dar-e-Mehr Zoroastrian Temple in Pomona March 22, 2017.

About 1,400 years ago, when Persia was invaded by Muslims, some Zarathushtis fled to India, where their faith took root. They are called Parsis, while those who stayed in Persia are called Iranian Zoroastrians. Jafari is an Irania Zoroastrian; Patel is a Parsi.

Both said they saw irony in the fact that an executive order that has been characterized as a “Muslim ban” is having an impact on a faith that was displaced by Muslims centuries ago.

A long view

Today, there are fewer than 200,000 Zarathushtis worldwide, and their numbers are shrinking, making the shining $4.5 million temple a beacon of optimism and hope in the next generation.

While the travel ban is concerning, both women took the longer view, perhaps a byproduct of following a religion that is 4,000 years old.

“The tradition has survived for thousands of years,” Jafari said.

“Yeah, this is nothing,” Patel said with a laugh.

Visit Lohud.com to see the video interview

Seminar: “Zarathushtra’s Vision and Zoroastrianism Today”

Seminar: “Zarathushtra’s Vision and Zoroastrianism Today”

ZAGNY is proud to present the first seminar at our new Dar-e-Mehr, on Saturday Nov 19th starting at 10:30 AM. Lunch will be provided by ZAGNY

The List of speakers include:

Prof. Stanley Insler

Emeritus Professor at Yale University. Prof. Insler is an expert in Vedic and Gathic languages and an authority on the Gathas of Zarathushtra, having given us one of the most brilliant translations into English. Prof. Insler gave the first academic lecture at the inauguration of our first Dar-e-Mehr in New Rochelle and it is particularly fitting that he is a speaker again at the first seminar at our New Dar-eMehr.

Dr. Kersey Antia

He is the Zoroastrian High Priest of Chicago, Illinois, a position he has held since 1977. He attended the M.F. Cama Athornan Institute in Bombay and became an ordained priest at the age of 13. He studied Avesta and Pahlavi at the University of Bombay. While in college, he received essay-awards from the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, and has served the community as a volunteer priest.
He has lectured and written on the subject of Zoroastrianism, in India and the United States, both live and on radio and on television, and has made video courses on Zoroastrianism. He has studied the Gathas on his own for many years. Utilizing, at first, the translations of Kanga, Mills, and Taraporewala, he now relies primarily on Dr. Insler’s translation.

Prof. Kaikhosrov Irani

He is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York, after teaching there for 41 years. He was Chairman of the Department for nine years; and the Director, and Executive Director of the Program for the History and Philosophy of Science and was responsible for the development of the Program and its execution and teaching. He was also the Director of the Academy of Humanities and Sciences for 12 Years.

Prof. Irani really needs no introduction to the Zoroastrian World. He has given lectures throughout North America, Europe, India and Pakistan. His knowledge of Zoroastrianism, especially the Gathas, his wit and sense of humor, and his ability to fit the subject of Zoroastrianism in the broader field of Philosophy makes him an engaging speaker and a great teacher.

Dr. Lovji Cama

Lovji is past president of ZAGNY and Dar-e-Mehr Trustee, has organized the religious education classes for children aged 4 to 15 years at ZAGNY, since 1973. He has taught Zoroastrian history, culture, philosophy and religion to children of ages 10 to 15. One of his primary areas of interest is youth related activities.

He has lectured and written on subjects on Zoroastrianism in New York, London and India and contributed to the text book used for the Good Life program, for U.S. Scouting, which is administered by ZAGNY.

Additional speakers and speaker topics will be announced soon.

To know more about the event and to RSVP please email Lovji Cama at ldcama@gmail.com

Muktad 2016 Names Sign Up

This year the hosts for the Muktad Ceremony are as follows:

Friday August 12th: 6:00 PM

Jasmine and Maneck Kotwal, (609) 275-5952

12 Park Hill Terrace, Princeton Junction, New Jersey 08550

Friday August 12th: 7:00 PM

Dinaz and Farhad Subjally, (973) 635-6984

10 Crestwood Drive, Chatham, New Jersey 07928

Saturday August 13th: 11:00 AM

Arbab Rustam Guiv Dar-E-Mehr, 106 Pomona Rd, Suffern, NY 10901

Sunday August 14th: 11:00 AM

Arbab Rustam Guiv Dar-E-Mehr, 106 Pomona Rd, Suffern, NY 10901

Monday August 15th: 7:00 PM

Navaz LoPinto, (917) 757 7942

25 W Orchard Street, Allendale, NJ 07401

Tuesday August 16th TBD

Email secretary@zagny.org if you would like to host on Tuesday August 16, 2016

2016 Ivy Gandhi Youth Camp Registration

The 2016 Annual Ivy Gandhi Youth Camp fondly referred to as the ZCAMP will be held the weekend of June 17th-19th at Camp Ma-He-Tu, located along the shores of Lake Kanawauke in Harriman State Park. This is a wonderful opportunity for getting the youth together to have fun and create friendships in the Zoroastrian community.

The fee this year has not changed and will be $50 per person to cover the cost of renting the camp site for the weekend, a t-shirt, 2 breakfasts, lunch, dinner and snacks. There will be many activities as in past years, including a hike up Bear Mountain, team competitions and a bonfire.

Children between the ages of 5 and 10 are welcome to attend with at least one parent. We encourage parents whos kids are attending camp to join us for the weekend.

Please register by Sunday, May 8th so we can order t-shirts and get started on logistics planning. If you know your child will be attending, please sign up as soon as possible. You can use the form below to sign up and pay online using a credit/debit card.

About Camp Ma-He-Tu:

Camp Ma-He-Tu (http://www.mahetu.org) is a not-for-profit organization sponsored by the Lutheran Girls’ Camp Association (501c3) and affiliated with the Metro NY Synod of the ELCA. During the summer, this is the location for an all-girls sleep-away camp. Additionally, Ma-He-Tu has long been welcoming organizations,church groups, youth groups, scout troops and wedding parties during the off-season.