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Roughly a dozen centuries later, many Parsis have settled in the diaspora, where they’re encountering a different challenge: assimilation and a not-too-distant scenario in which, some worry, there will be no Zoroastrians left in the world. This worry is often directed toward young Zoroastrians, whose minds—and perhaps more importantly, hearts—may determine the future of the religion.Decisions about dating and marriage can also be decisions about whether to stay within their community: Zoroastrianism is a patriarchal tradition, so the children of Zoroastrian women who marry outside the faith are not accepted, and even shunned, in many communities.Zoroastrianism does have holidays and rituals, and adherents go through an initiation rite, which some people compare to a bar or bat mitzvah, called “navjote.” Although it might appear to outsiders as though fire is worshipped in the temples, Zoroastrians say that fire is a symbol of the divine, due to its warmth and light, rather than the divinity itself.Parsis, the descendants of the Zoroastrians who fled Iran for India, represent the largest portion of the Zoroastrian population globally; the other portion lives in Iran.Although the North American Zoroastrian community actually grew during that period by 24.4 percent—numbering 20,847 in 2012—and by 33.5 percent in the United States, this population is relatively small compared to that of India, which saw a 12.4 percent decline from 69,601 in 2004 to 61,000 in 2012.
“I really strongly think that if you make it a priority [to find a Zoroastrian spouse], and if you are sincere in it being a priority, you will find someone and make it work,” he said.Patel said he has heard about a mobile dating app under development in India intended for Zoroastrians; he has seen no equivalent in the United States.It is, he said, “a pretty big failing.” There doesn’t seem to be much youth programming in the community, although an organization called Zoroastrian Return to Roots has taken about 45 Zoroastrians, aged 22 to 35, on 15-day trips to India.Since she was profiled by the New York Times in 2009, “the situation has become worse,” she said, relying on the study by the FEZANA journal, where she used to be an editor; the rate of intermarriages, she estimates, has risen from 40 percent to 60 percent.
Otherwise, it can be tough to find a Zoroastrian to be with.
“There’s no way really for us to compute how many Zoroastrians there are in the U. and in North America,” said Dinyar Patel, an assistant professor of history, including that of modern South Asia and Zoroastrianism, at the University of South Carolina. “From the very beginning when I was starting to look out, I only looked within the community,” he said.