It was the Jewish holiday of Purim that was believed to have caused the first major outbreaks of coronavirus cases in some New Jersey communities last year.

Almost a year later, the festive celebration that commemorates the survival of Jews from a genocidal 5th Century Achaemenid Persian Empire official, will be a more subdued affair.

Last year's Purim fell in March at the beginning of the pandemic. This year's is earlier and falls on Feb. 25 and 26.

Agudath Israel, a group that helps strengthen American Jewish communities, warned that the Purim has the potential to become a "super spreader" event.

"It is critical to remind ourselves that the eyes of the world are upon us, and will likely be watching us closely this Purim," the group said.

It's not just Purim. Last year, the start of the pandemic coincided with St. Patrick's Day celebrations, which this year have mostly been completely canceled.

Aaron Kotler, CEO of the largest Jewish college in Lakewood, Beth Medrash Govoha, told New Jersey 101.5 said he is recommending to students and the community that celebrations only be with immediate family in private.

"This is a festival that's been celebrated for thousands of years with such public  gatherings and celebrations. It's not the time for it," Kotler said.

Kotler said that compared to a year ago, people are a lot smarter about dealing with the pandemic.

"March of a year ago there was so little information out there, so little guidance and so little knowledge of what was coming. It's a very painful time to think about how little we did in the face of what we did know," Kotler said.

Most holidays, whether religious or secular, became subdued affairs during the pandemic with repeated warnings to keep celebrations to immediate family. Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order before Thanksgiving limiting indoor gatherings to just 10 people.

Kotler sees a light at the end of the tunnel when gatherings will once again be large.

"We're seeing so much suffering, so much pain, so much loss. We have to all hold out a little longer. Vaccines are coming, which is really good news. It's a miracle they've come this fast. We just have to hold on a little longer," Kotler said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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