Connecticut Dad Organizes Public Menorah-Lighting Ceremonies After Darien Antisemitism Spike
November 21, 2021
After experiencing a slew of antisemitism incidents recently, including the drawing of a swastika in a middle school bathroom, the Connecticut town of Darien will hold public menorah-lighting ceremonies during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, starting next Sunday night.
The initiative was devised by a local parent, Dan Guller, who was concerned about rising hatred in his community. It is believed this will be the first time ever such an event has been hosted by Darien residents.
“I keep thinking of the Martin Luther King Jr. quote, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only the light can do that,’” Guller — the father of a three-year-old son — told The Darien Times. “And it occurred to me that that’s exactly what this is. That’s what a menorah is. It’s the light driving out the darkness, both literally and figuratively.”
The menorah-lighting ceremonies — which people of all faiths are welcome to join — will take place at 6 PM each night during the eight-day holiday, and attendees are being encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys for donation. Partners in the project include Baywater Properties, PG Properties, and Temple Shalom, located in nearby Norwalk.
More than a dozen Jewish families from the area have already said they plan to participate in lighting the candles, and bipartisan slate of officials from the national, state, and local levels have received invitations.
The October swastika incident at Middlesex Middle School in Darien came amid a rise in similar occurrences at secondary schools across the globe. As of the start of November, the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) Information Hub had recorded 15 incidents of middle and high school-related antisemitism, largely in the United States and Canada, since the beginning of the current academic year.
In response to the Middlesex Middle School graffiti, which police opened an investigation into, the Darien School District announced the hiring of an outside diversity, equality, and inclusion officer.
At the time, a Darien Jewish parent, Joanna Walsh, was quoted by the Stamford Advocate as saying, “Every day, something else happens that worries and scares and disgusts me. I moved to town in June of 2014. Shortly thereafter, a new friend, upon hearing that I was Jewish, said ‘Don’t let anyone else in town know that.’”
“He was kidding,” she added. “But that joke is indicative of the environment we now find ourselves in. The fact is that Jews in this town in our school don’t feel safe. People of color don’t feel safe… and our only response has been to talk about it, and then wait until the next incident.”