A BRIEF HISTORY OF CALIFORNIA ZOROASTRIAN CENTER
A winged figure surrounded by a writing of “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds,” and four tall pillars with bull-torso tops make a building look majestic, attractive and interesting on the Hazard Avenue in Westminster. The sign reads: California Zoroastrian Center. It is a religious-social building because in addition to daily visits by many persons, every now and then men and women of all ages gather to celebrate an occasion. There is an interesting story behind it. Here is a very brief account:
In May 1979, six Iranian Zoroastrian ladies met with a view to find a way to preserve and promote their religion and culture in their home—America. It was first formed as a subsidiary committee of the existing Zoroastrian Association of California (ZAC). It did not work; it didn’t work either with the Zoroastrian Foundation, which had its base in Bombay, India. The committee attached itself to the Ancient Iran Cultural Society in November 1979. It worked. However, in May 1980, a famous Iranian philanthropist, Rustam Guiv, helped the committee, now registered as a non-profit, religious-social corporation under the name of the “California Zoroastrian Center,” to be lodged in premises he purchased on the Bayless Street in Anaheim. A few years of rapidly growing activities, made the officials to plan for a larger places. The Rustam Guiv Foundation provided the funds for a piece of land and other philanthropists wholeheartedly joined in to construct a building on it. On March 25, 1987, the majestic building was inaugurated with prayers, talks, and festivity.
The building, named Rustam Guiv Dar-e Mehr, covers 8,000 sq. ft. on 47,000 sq. ft. ground. It has a hall with a capacity of 630 persons, a prayer room with 4,000 books and booklets, three class-rooms which are easily converted to serve as a dining hall or to enlarge the big hall, a kitchen, and a guest apartment. It initially cost $536,000. A two-story annex was completed and inaugurated in 1988 as a youth wing at a cost of $40,000. Each of these sections was build by donors in memory of their beloved ones. Relevant plaques bear names of the donors and the beloved ones.
The fire-altar of the prayer room was donated by a philanthropist and was brought from India. It is 100 years old. The library is one of the best in reference books on Zoroastrians in North America. Books were donated by the Ancient Iranian Cultural Society, the late office, prayer room, and the library are open seven days a week with a full-time priest and a fulltime office manager, a rarity in America and Europe.
Donations by members and friends, some remaining anonymous, help the Center to meet its expense. The center has its Youth wing. The youth are active in holding religious meetings, literary gatherings, sports, and concerts.
The Center celebrates religious and national festivals, holds religious, cultural and social classes in English and Farsi, arranged talks by scholars, holds music concerts and painting exhibitions, and publishes a quarterly bulletin with articles on religions, history, culture, news, and calendar. To this day, it has published five books on Zoroastrianism. It has hosted the Fifth North American Zoroastrian Congress and the First North American Zoroastrian Youth Congress, and sends its representatives to both the congresses being held every two years alternately in the cities with prominent Zoroastrian population in North America. The Center is an active founding – member of FEZANA, the Federation of Zoroastrian Association of North America. It has established close relations with Zoroastrian and related organizations all over the world, particularly India, Iran, Pakistan, and Europe. It has counseled and helped new immigrants to settle in America.
The start from scratch to its present of the largest Zoroastrian center outside Iran, Pakistan, and India, during a short period of ten years has warranted Herculean efforts. It has been the faith, high spirits, philanthropy, and team work to achieve all that has been achieved .And it will be the same Faith ,high spirits, philanthropy and team work that will continue to promote the California Zoroastrian Center for the Zoroastrians particularly in southern California and in North America as well as for all those who are interested to know more about Zoroastrianism.
May Ahura Mazda, Lord Wise, help us all in our duty to the cause!