MILWAUKEE— After the sun set on Thursday night, Hanukkah, the traditional eight-day Jewish holiday, officially began. Jewish families in the Milwaukee area found a safe way to celebrate together. 

Because of COVID-19, 2020 has been a challenge for everyone in different ways. Parties, dinners with friends and family, and things like sharing a cup of coffee or hot cocoa have gone by the wayside. 

“This means a tremendous amount to all of us,” said Holli Kramer of Thiensville. “It’s the friendship, the connection, the fun."

Friendship Circle, a non-profit organization that provides help to those with special needs, held a ceremonial lighting of the grand Menorah outside of its cafe in Fox Point to kick off the holiday. 

“This is a lifesaver,” Kramer said. 

The ’'normalcy,’' including singing and dancing, was only possible this year because of the new normal of wearing face masks and keeping at least six feet of distance from one another. 

Friendship Circle drew dreidels on the parking lot in chalk to help groups and families keep that social distance from others. 




“I think the soul and the Friendship Circle really did a great job with social distancing so that people feel safe,” said Stephanie Brauner of Greenfield. 

Adding to the stress of the pandemic, Brauner and her family just moved to Wisconsin from Orlando, Florida, last month. 

She and her husband said they are thankful for the opportunity to slow down and celebrate the start of the holiday and make memories with their two sons. 

“It’s really important for us to celebrate the holiday as a family, and be together, and we thought this was a great opportunity to do that,” Brauner said. 

Hanukkah runs through Friday, December 18.