News

  • Sunday, September 05, 2021 7:40 PM | Pedram Yazdani (Administrator)

    The University of Toronto and Elehé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Institute of Iranian Studies presents.

    -Cyrus in the 6ix-

    A Public Discussion on the Installation of a Cyrus the Great Statue in Toronto

    Convened by:
    Professor Mohamad Tavakoli Ali Ehsassi
    University of Toronto Member of Parliament

    Date: Saturday, 11 September 2021 @ 4:00 pm EDT


    Hailed as a ruler who liberated Jews from captivity in Babylonia in the Old Testament, Cyrus the Great (r. 550-529 BC) has been widely recognized as the originator of a multi-confessional, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual polity in the ancient world. Also praised by the Greek historians Herodotus, Xenophon, and Ctesias, the 1879 discovery of the “Cyrus Cylinder”--which is considered to be the earliest expression of the concept of human rights--reinforced the scholarly view of Cyrus as an exemplary ruler of the ancient world.

    A 10-foot bronze statue of Cyrus the Great donated to the City of Toronto for installation in a suitable public space is a way to bring the legacy of Cyrus into a dynamic relationship with Canadian multiculturalism.

    Following an inspiring and supportive meeting with Mayor John Tory concerning the statue, this public discussion is intended to gauge the level of support for installing the Cyrus statue in a suitable site in Toronto.


    To register for the meeting, click on the banner below.


  • Friday, September 03, 2021 12:37 PM | Pedram Yazdani (Administrator)

    Don’t hesitate to share your ideas or vision for the change that you seek. Try it out, have a go, keep nurturing your passion and learn along the way.” – Sheherazad

    Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

    Hi my name is Sheherazad F. Kapadia. I am a Master's student in London, studying Occupational Therapy. My background is in children's mental health, and I have an interest in researching health inequalities. Today, conversations around wellbeing can often be limited to our physical health. I am passionate about broadening that dialogue, giving as much importance to our mental health, within our community and beyond. 

    ... more interestingly, my other passions include eating chocolate, beating my brother at monopoly, and going to Nando’s with my Grandma! 


    Your grandparents live with you; how do you keep them connected with the local Zoroastrian community? We have a lot of senior members who are avid readers of our monthly newsletters, how would you say we could do more to keep our senior members of the community engaged and connected during as well as post lockdowns?

    Great question! 

    For me, it is mutual. The great thing about my grandparents is their openness. We often chat about their childhoods and how the world/community was when they were growing up, and in turn, they listen to stories about the youth. This way, I learn about our culture's past, and they know about our community’s future. 

    The pandemic has been a tough time for many of us. However, I feel that the global Zoroastrian youth has really stepped up. The online zoom events have been significant in connecting our community. My Grandma, for example, has been able to participate in a Zoroastrian fitness class run by a Young Zoroastrian called Danny Master. This has allowed her to maintain her physical and mental health whilst also being a great social activity.  A whole new world has opened-up for her and it will surely be sustained past the lockdown.


    You’ve done quite a fair share of travel yourself and currently serve on the FEZANA NGO committee, can you tell us a little about your experiences? Why do you like to volunteer on these social projects? Why do you think serving on these international organisations are important for the Zoro youth?

    Yes, I love to travel. I really hope to see as much of the world as possible. I encourage more people to travel, there is never a good time and going in groups can be a great way to stay safe. 

    Volunteering is simply something I enjoy. I volunteer on social projects because they interest me, and I am passionate about making a difference. The people I meet are also a big part of why I enjoy working on social projects. I've learnt so much from my volunteering roles personally and professionally. Volunteering is very much a two-way street; it allows me to give my time to a cause I believe in, and in return I can use my skills to help others. 


    How important do you think it is to work closely and in collaboration with the international Zoroastrian organisations such as ZTFE (Europe), ZYNG (India), ZSO (Canada), FEZANA (North America), UK ZY, etc.?

    Collaboration is key. The pandemic has brought a lot of pain, and I believe now more than ever is our time to come together as a community. Virtual events have been a significant catalyst, allowing for greater cohesion amongst the Zoroastrian associations worldwide! 

    Initiatives like this are small ways to foster a global voice and in bringing our international community closer. It is also about collaborating within our associations, ensuring that we socialize across the generations and learn from one another. 

     

    How excited are you co-chairing the upcoming 8th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress to be held in London, 2023? What are you looking forward to the most?

    Very excited! It's an exciting time for the Zoroastrian Youth in the UK. I hope we can pull off an insightful congress for the international Zoroastrian Youth to enjoy. What I am looking forward to the most is bringing people together, helping youth find common ground, and building stronger foundations for the future of the Zoroastrian Community. I hope anyone who attends the congress leaves with a sense of hope for our community’s future, alongside some thoughts about how they can contribute - just one goal, one change, one difference - that would impact our community for the better would make this meaningful.


    Lastly, what message do you have for our young members reading this and in what ways can they make an impact?

    I say, be yourself. Everyone has a strength, whether it is being a great listener, graphic designing or coming up with novel ideas. Your impact is whatever you believe you can bring to the table. One thing I love about the Zoroastrian community is our diverse skillset. We can all bring something different to the table, and I think it's time to harness those skills for growth. Don’t hesitate to share your ideas or vision for the change that you seek. Try it out, have a go, keep nurturing your passion and learn along the way. Good luck to our youth!


    Thanks, Sherri, for your volunteer work and inspiring the youth.

    Good luck and hope to see you all at the 8th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress!

  • Wednesday, August 25, 2021 7:31 PM | Pedram Yazdani (Administrator)

    Anyone who has missed the Ba Humata special webinar series on Khordaad Saal, can now re-watch it HERE.


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  • Monday, August 23, 2021 3:24 PM | Pedram Yazdani (Administrator)

    Please click AGM 2021 Q&A to access the answers to the questions raised at the 2021 Annual General Meeting. Please note, you must login to your ZSO account in order to the view the PDF files.

    Thank you,

    ZSO Board of Directors
  • Wednesday, August 11, 2021 10:11 AM | Pedram Yazdani (Administrator)

    ZSO invites you to join Ba Humata special webinar series on Khordaad Saal - celebrating Asho Zarathushtra's birthday on Sunday, August 22, 2021 at 11 am. Included on the panel will be one of our own ZSO members, Roya Merchant.


    Date: Sunday, August 22, 2021 at 11 am EST

    Join Zoom Meeting
    https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83408826220

    Meeting ID: 834 0882 6220
    Passcode: BAHUMATA


  • Friday, August 06, 2021 2:15 PM | ZSO Vice President (Administrator)

    Dear ZSO members,

    In recent days, many of you have reached out to the ZSO Board requesting clarifications on the protocols and guidelines for the upcoming Farvardegan (Muktad) days.

    We understand this is an auspicious time in our faith and community. However, the safety of the entire community is our first priority.  We’d like to take this opportunity and re-enforce to you all that while we acknowledge the positivity and good vibes for the Step 3 of the reopening with vaccinations, etc., the Pandemic is still NOT over. We continue to be in a state of pandemic and hence we have to still be very cautious and careful of our actions for the safety of ourselves, our loved ones and our community at large. While in Step 3 of Ontario’s Roadmap to Re-open, we must all continue to follow the public health measures, advice and restrictions.

    Here are some of the frequently asked questions:

    What is the MGDM capacity during Farvardegan days?

    We are following the guidelines as outlined on the province’s website for religious services, rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services (does not apply to receptions and social gatherings) by having the 2M distancing in place during our Farvardegan days and will be able to accommodate up to 50 people – including volunteers, Priests and care-taker – between the Dadgah and the Main Hall.

    What are the hours of the MGDM during Farvaredegan days?

    The MGDM will be open for visits by appointment and during the scheduled prayer times only with health & safety protocols to follow. The revised hours of operations from August 11th – 15th, 2021 are 6am - 9pm.

    All the following prayers will be performed and live streamed on ZSO’s YouTube channel during the Farvardegan days as per the schedule in the Newsletter:

    • Three Satoom sessions (morning, afternoon and evening),  
    • Afringan 
    • Farokshi in the morning
    • Evening Satoom and Hum Bundagi  

    Why are visits by appointment only?

    Contact tracing and capacity limits continue to be a mandatory requirement for all businesses and faith-based organizations under the provincial and health guidelines. Appointment bookings will help us maintain accurate records and ensure we are abiding by the capacity limits as well as well giving enough time between visits for cleaning and sanitization. 

    What is the policy for sandalwood offerings and Prayer books?

    For the upcoming Farvardegan days, we encourage our members to purchase sandalwood from the ZSO as another method of donation, however, if you wish to bring your own, you're more than welcome to do so.  We will also be accepting donations of the same. For those who cannot visit the MGDM and wish to make an offering, please do so from the ZSO Store by clicking here.

    We strongly recommend and encourage members to bring their own masks, prayer books and head covering as it will not be provided at the MGDM to avoid the spread of any germs, cross contamination and most importantly not being able to sanitize our holy books.

    Why are we not allowed to consume any food or Chasni?

    The Zoroastrian Society of Ontario’s Mehraban Guiv Darbe Mehr is a place of worship and we have to abide by the guidelines within this category. In order to serve food, we need adequate licenses for serving and handling food and cannot have a self-serve buffet system. If we have volunteers serving food, whether buffet or sit down they also need to have a food handling license. This requirement is now applicable to all event spaces and banquet halls as well.

    Everything we are doing as your elected Board of the ZSO is to ensure the safety of our community.

    We hope this communication has brought some clarity to everyone. We look forward to seeing you  at the MGDM during the upcoming Farvardegan days and thank you for your continued patience, support and dedication.

  • Friday, August 06, 2021 12:14 PM | Pedram Yazdani (Administrator)

  • Friday, August 06, 2021 10:15 AM | ZSO Vice President (Administrator)

    The province has entered Step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen, and we are happy to share that by following the changes under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) for places of worship alongside the reopening guidelines the Mehraban Guiv Darb e Meher (MGDM) will be reopening for the upcoming Shahenshahi Farvardegan days (Aug 11th - 15thwith modified hours and some specific conditions. These conditions will continue ensuring all public health measures are followed including capacity limits, face coverings, physical distancing and environmental cleaning and disinfecting.   

    As we cautiously and gradually plan the upcoming Shahenshai Farvardegan days, participation in religious services during these days (Aug. 11th – 15th) will be limited. The MGDM will be open for visits by appointment and during the scheduled prayer times only with health & safety protocols to follow. 

    The MGDM revised hours of operations starting, from August 11th – 15th, 2021 are: 6 AM to 9 PM

    All the following prayers will be performed and live streamed during the Farvardegan days:

    • Three Satoom sessions (morning, afternoon and evening),  
    • Afringan 
    • Farokshi in the morning
    • Evening Satoom and Hum Bundagi  

    All visits to the MGDM will be by appointment only and MUST be booked in advance, a minimum 24 hours prior to the day of the visit, by contacting Hoofrish Patel (EVP@zso.org) | (647) 313-9805 and receiving her confirmation. Please note if you do not have an appointment/confirmation your entry will be denied. 

    As you all are aware this has been hard for all communities including ZSO in terms of revenue generation, we request everyone to donate generously by visiting our website (zso.org/donate). Cash donations should be dropped off in the ZSO safety deposit box.  Please do not drop off any cheques in the safety deposit box. If you wish to donate by cheque, please be sure to attach the completed donation form with your cheque made payable to 'Zoroastrian Society of Ontario'. Cheques made payable to 'ZSO' will be rejected and not processed.

    We thank you for your patience and appreciate your cooperation as we gradually and safely reopen, keeping the safety of our custodian and the community at large as the top priority.

    Below are the COVID-19 Guidelines during the Farvardegan days as per the health and city requirements:

    Do’s

    Don’ts

    • Participation in religious services is limited and based on capacity guidelines.
    • Visits to the MGDM are by appointment ONLY by contacting Hoofrish Patel (EVP@zso.org)
    • Wearing a non-medical mask/face covering is mandatory
    • Maintain a social distance of two meters/six feet
    • Bring your own prayer book and head covering
    • Sukhar must be purchased at ZSO only and CANNOT be brought from home or outside 
    • Social gatherings, including those that occur before or after a prayer service remains suspended
    • Consumption of food and drink remains suspended, this includes donation of ravo, sev, malido, etc.
    • Avoid opportunities for the virus to spread through touch, either directly or indirectly through surfaces and objects, including objects that may be used in rituals or ceremonies.
    • No consumption of chasni by individuals

     


    Disclaimers and resources: 

    • “All visits to the MGDM are voluntary and at the visitor’s own discretion. Visitors must comply with applicable guidelines including limits on numbers, wearing of masks and physical distancing. All visitors are responsible for their own health & safety as well as respecting the health & safety of those around them.” 
    • "Visitors must self-screen with the ZSO volunteer present when entering the MGDM at each visit. The volunteer will record the date, their name and contact information (phone and/or email) and that will only be used for contact tracing for COVID-19 purposes and will only be kept on file for 30 days.”
    • Click here for more details on reopening of Faith Based Organizations in the City of Toronto


  • Sunday, August 01, 2021 12:52 PM | Pedram Yazdani (Administrator)

    It’s really not that hard to do something meaningful. Avoid the elegiac debates about what’s wrong with our community and just do something” – Dinsha

     

    Hi Dinsha! Welcome to our coffee chat and we’re excited to have you as our third guest in this series!


    1.       Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?Thanks! I was born in Houston and grew up in Atlanta, where I finished high school. I then went to Boston for college before moving to New Jersey for graduate school. I am currently a research fellow and lecturer at Stanford Law School where I teach and conduct research on topics related to international development and poverty. I am married to a great person (Fareeza) and have a son named Hormazd, with a second on the way!
     
     
    2.       You have visited Iran, lived across the United States, visited your wife’s city of Karachi, Pakistan and of course been to India. Can you highlight some of the Zoroastrian cultural similarities and differences?
     
    This question deserves a longer and more complex answer, but basically the short answer is that everyone practices the religion differently. There are some common features, of course, but I think we have lost any semblance of a standard global practice. There are more similarities from a cultural perspective, but we are different. Even in N. California, where I am currently based, we have two Zoroastrian associations, one run by the Iranian Zoroastrians and one run by the Parsis. There is a deeper question here as to whether this is a problem, and if it is, what should we be doing about it? My view is that we must promote mutual respect. If someone in Timbuktu wants to be called a Zoroastrian, I don’t need to agree with it, but I don’t need to interfere either. Likewise, if a temple in India says, “Only these people are allowed,” it would be wrong for someone living abroad to attempt to break or change the rule.
     
     
    3.       You co-founded the now popular “Return To Roots” as well as “Agiary Connect” programs, how did that idea come to your mind and can you tell us a bit more about these projects? What other projects are you involved with?

    Agiary Connect came about because I find value in Zoroastrian religious services and could not get them performed when I am in the US. At the same time, priests in India are suffering economically as a huge portion of our community has left. There is priestly poverty, and I can’t blame any priest who doesn’t want to go into the profession as there is really no money in it anymore. I decided to learn more. The first question was whether it was religiously possible. I found out from my uncle Khojeste that back in the ancient days in Iran, priests in the cities would send religious service orders to priests serving in rural shrines. Then I thought about all the times that I had gotten a service performed at an agiary for someone who wasn’t physically there. My friend, Benafsha Shroff, also got really interested and we started looking out for a priest at an agiary who could help us. We found our person at the Banaji-Limji Agiary, the oldest agiary in Bombay. That’s when all the headaches really started. The Indian government made it very difficult to do money transfers from elsewhere to India. Thankfully, we figured out a solution and are now able to make things work. Then our website was subject to a number of spam attacks, which ultimately led to it being shut down. Thankfully Jamsheed Mistri came into our lives and revived the website. As we grow, we are hoping to find someone who can help us market and do advertising. Also, we are always looking for more agiaries and priests to work with. We operate the site with a few small donations. We transfer all the money we get for services to the priests and agiaries, apart from the transfer / currency conversion fees (www.agiaryconnect.com). 

    Return to Roots was different. Aban Marker Kabraji and Shernaz Cama wanted to do a project that a bunch of youth could work together doing. They had been asking people in their networks for ideas. I had come across an undergrad at Princeton (where I was currently studying) who had just finished a trip on Taglit-Birthright Israel. He was not all that connected to his community when he went, but he figured it was a free two-week trip where could learn more. He ended up moving to Israel after he graduated and even served for a short spell in the Israeli Defense Forces. Aban and Shernaz were instantly on board with the idea and we set forth on plans to arrange trips to Iran and India. Aban and Shernaz reached out to talented youths from all over the world. We started with Rosheen Kabraji, my cousin Kaiyan Mistree, Shireen Havewala, and myself (fun fact: Aban brought Shireen into the group and Kaiyan fell in love. Shireen and Kaiyan got married a few years ago). Rosheen and I went to communities all over the diaspora to fund the program and to send their youth. Kaiyan and Shireen handled Indian operations, which included the gargantuan tasks of planning the trips. Not really knowing what to expect, sixteen brave souls decided to come for the first trip. Return to Roots has done trips to India every year apart from 2020 and 2021.  We always wanted to do Iran, but visa issues have limited what can be done. Hopefully one day.

     

    4.       You mentioned you’re traditional in your practice of the faith, but your mother is a non-Zoroastrian, did that affect you in your childhood and practicing of the religion? You’re also the nephew of the renowned Zoroastrian scholar - Khojeste Mistree, were you always heavily involved with the community and faith. Did you feel any pressure to continue the familial legacy?
     
    My mom grew up in the Unitarian faith. My personal view is that in mixed marriages, at least one person must compromise on the religious practices in the family. If both parents compromise and the parents try to provide both religions, then the child grows up without a strong grounding in either faith. In my case, the Zoroastrian influence was a much stronger presence. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate my mom or my matrilineal relatives, but we were going to Zoroastrian Sunday Schools instead of church. My dad, Farrokh, and Khojeste are both heavily involved in the community and have both encouraged me to get engaged. They have both provided me with a number of opportunities, not to mention intellectual engagement on the weighty issues facing our community.
     
     
    5.       Can you tell us more about your work with FEZANA and the Scholarship committee? How has FEZANA adapted and grown with the times and maximizing reach?
     
    If FEZANA ever had a Hall of Fame, Dolly Dastoor would certainly have to be among the first inductees. In addition to starting FEZANA Journal and serving as FEZANA’s president, she started the FEZANA Scholarship program more than 30 years ago. What Dolly has done is remarkable: this year, the Scholarships will give out more than $70,000 USD to several of the community’s finest students. Much of this money comes from endowment funds and will only grow over time. I was lucky enough to receive a FEZANA Scholarship when I was studying and was honored when Dolly invited me to serve as a judge on the committee. Recently, I have been helping Dolly do some updates to the Scholarship program, which has provided me a glimpse into the amount of work she does in coordinating everything. It’s simply incredible. We are doing several things to maximize reach. This year for the first time, FEZANA’s social media team (led by Tanya Hoshi) got the word out about the scholarships. We have more than 100 applications, about two to three times what we usually get. I am optimistic that we will be able to expand what we can offer as well. Scholarship alums frequently pay back what they receive, and we have several new donors who are coming forward to support our activities. It’s really exciting.
     
     
    6.       So, lots of people visit 8 Atash Behrams in a single day, but you’ve covered 50 agiaries in Bombay in a single day, how was that experience? Would you recommend it to our readers?
     
    One day, Kaiyan (my cousin) and I were talking, and we got the crazy idea to visit all the consecrated fires in Bombay. There are 41 agiaries and 4 Atash Behrams; we also did one or two dadgah temples to get to an even 50. We started making plans. Everything would have to go just right, and even then, we thought we might not be able to pull it off. We got everything ready and left from Khareghat colony at 4:15 am. We started in Kalyan and it was a blur from there. We would do our kustis, enter the agiary, make some donations, say a few prayers, take our tilis, and go to the next one. We finished at 9:35 pm and only took one bathroom break. When we were planning everything, I didn’t think it would be a very religious experience, but I have to say that there were several moments where we really experienced the magic of the agiaries and the fires. Also, we did this activity on a random Saturday. Kaiyan and I estimated that we saw more than 500 people in all the temples. There was the aunty who goes to agiary every day, the college student praying for better grades, the newly married couple coming in, and the person dashing in quickly before starting his errands. We often bemoan how the religion is falling apart, but it is worth remembering that these are important institutions that people use everyday.


    7.       Are you involved in the organization of the upcoming World Zoroastrian Congress to be held in New York City, USA in 2022? How excited are you and would you encourage the youth and other community members to attend the international event next summer?
     
    I’m not involved in the planning for the upcoming World Zoroastrian Congress, but I’m cheering them on. Congresses are great ways to meet new people. In pre-covid times, I traveled a lot for work. When I got the chance in a new city, I like to contact some of the people I have met at previous Congresses. It’s always fun to see these folks again, plus they always love showing off their home cities. If one has the means, Congresses are worthwhile to attend.
     
     
    8.       Lastly, what message do you have for our young members reading this and in what ways can they make an impact?
     
    It’s really not that hard to do something meaningful. Avoid the elegiac debates about what’s wrong with our community and just do something. If you’re looking for ideas, organize a hike or talk people into a dhansak cooking party or go bowling. Invite the other Zoroastrians in the area. You will find a nice group of people who will become your friends. Before you know it, you will have a community.

     


    Thank you so much Dinsha, for your time and amazing work for the community!



  • Thursday, July 29, 2021 10:02 AM | Pedram Yazdani (Administrator)



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