Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky Explains How Religious Services have been Affected by COVID-19


While the emergence of COVID-19 and stay-at-home measures have had a significant impact on places of worship and Americans’ religious behaviours, research suggests that Americans’ faith has strengthened, and they’ve found new ways to worship during these challenging times.

Benny Rogosnitzky, who serves as Cantor of Park East Synagogue in Manhattan, says that while it might be difficult to adjust to this “new normal” of online worship, he has learned to adapt and has found great comfort through his faith and continued practice. Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky has experienced his world through the grace of music and his never-ending passion for music and the performing arts. He has been able to incorporate his passion into his career as a Cantor and leader of a prestigious New York synagogue. Rogosnitzky outlines the ways in which religious services have been affected by this pandemic and how Americans can slowly begin to adapt.

More Americans turning to prayer

In late March, Pew Research Centre surveyed 11,537 American adults and discovered that the majority have changed their religious habits due to the pandemic. The survey results revealed that Americans who pray daily (86%), as well as U.S. Christians (73%), have been praying for an end to the spread of the coronavirus. Interestingly, for Americans who rarely engage in prayer and for those who do not belong to any religious, some of these respondents revealed that they have taken to prayer during this outbreak (15% and 24%, respectively). In Brooklyn, with synagogues closed, many Orthodox Jews have been praying on their porches — not letting the current pandemic hinder their worship and faith.

From In-Person Religious Services to Online Engagement

That same survey from Pew Research revealed that for U.S. adults who generally attended religious services at least once or twice a month prior to the pandemic (59% of the respondents), have now scaled back their attendance significantly (to once a month or not at all, until after the outbreak has cleared). Along with health and safety precautions, most have scaled back their attendance because churches and other houses of worship have temporarily closed their doors. In the meantime, 57% of these same respondents said that they’ve switched to online engagement, with many places of worship broadcasting their services online or on TV.

Overall, the Pew survey discovered that four-in-ten religious Americans have replaced in-person worship with virtual attendance. Here in New York, Central Synagogue has been supporting their Jewish community through livestreaming (with options for people to watch the broadcast through Facebook livestream, listen to it by phoning a number, or by viewing it on TV), downloadable prayer books, and regular online engagement and updates. For those who are uncomfortable with technology, Central Synagogue (and most other places of worship) will offer technical support. This switch to technology provides a much greater outreach and options to worshippers moving forward. The option for the community to attend services by another option than being in person will provide plenty of flexibility and in certain circumstances, make these services more accessible.

Religious Groups Supporting Those Impacted by the Pandemic

During times of crisis and social turmoil, religious individuals and groups have traditionally played an important role in working towards a positive solution, says Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky. Now, during this global pandemic, faith has pushed religious Americans to pray for their neighbours and to offer various forms of support to those afflicted by the pandemic. Through food drives, financial donations, and prayer requests, religious Americans have been stepping up in myriad of ways to strengthen others through their faith.

Final Words of Encouragement from Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky

Now more than ever, Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky encourages fellow Americans to strengthen their faith and find solace through regular prayer and the virtual services that are provided through local synagogues and other places of worship. Rather than becoming overwhelmed with sadness and fear, prayer can provide us comfort and hope, as we patiently wait for these difficult times to pass. This is a great opportunity to take advantage of the access that we have to technology and utilize it to do some further good in the world. The added access to faith for those who need further encouragement during these tough times is very important.

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