Darien’s first-ever community menorah lighting drew 300 people. Will it return next year?

Event organizer Dan Guller makes remarks during a town-wide menorah lighting, widely believed to be the first in Darien’s history, on Dec. 1, 2021.

Event organizer Dan Guller makes remarks during a town-wide menorah lighting, widely believed to be the first in Darien’s history, on Dec. 1, 2021.

Contributed / Bob Duff

DARIEN — After a “spectacular” response to Darien’s first community menorah lighting, event creator Dan Guller said he is vowing to make it an annual tradition.

“I was hopeful that we would get a nice turnout— I did not expect seas of people,” Guller said. “It’s gratifying and overwhelming and makes me feel like, OK, what are we doing next?”

The Dec. 1 menorah lighting, which Guller said he organized to show people another side to Darien after recent incidents of anti-Semitism in schools sent shockwaves throughout the town, drew a crowd of more than 300 people to Grove Street Plaza.

A different Jewish family in Darien is lighting one candle of the 6-feet-tall menorah each night of Hanukkah, which runs until Dec. 8. Guller was flanked by his husband and 3-year-old son as they conducted the candle-lighting Wednesday surrounded by throngs of people.

Around 50 Jewish families from Darien attended, Guller said.

“It was so amazing to me ... you can imagine I’ve seen a lot of upsetting things and now I’m seeing lots of positive things," said Jan Raymond, a longtime Jewish resident of Darien. "It wasn’t easy to grow up here, but things have changed. I think last night expressed who we, as a town, want to be."

Others in the crowd said they were simply there to show their support.

Among that crowd were Republican and Democratic town and state officials, whom Guller said were invited because he wanted to show that the event was nonpartisan and apolitical.

The event’s turnout overwhelmed the “wildest expectations” of state Rep. Matt Blumenthal, he said.

“This is a great statement about Darien confronting anti-Semitism, about Darien coming together to say it has no place in this community and making sure that everyone feels welcome,” said Blumenthal, who represents Darien and Stamford.

Next year’s event could be even bigger. Nearby partnering vendor NEAT Coffee had successful hot chocolate sales, according to store personnel — a strong case for expanding the event and bringing in other vendors on Grove Street Plaza during future menorah lightings, said NEAT general manager Edward Cruz.

Guller had previously referred to the menorah lighting as a possible “antidote” to anti-Semitism lingering in Darien. In the past several months, hateful graffiti including swastikas have been found in the middle and high schools.

“I feel like it is harder to hate your next-door neighbor and it’s easier to disparage a group you don’t think is around you,” Guller said. “I’m hopeful that people realize there are Jews in Darien — so maybe they won’t be so quick in feeling safe to be anti-Semitic.”

raga.justin@hearst.com