An Interfaith Service for Gratitude & Lew


 Thanksgiving is a time to come together. On Monday, November 22, St. Francis de Sales Parish and West End Temple brought people of all faiths together to show gratitude, appreciation for the community and country, and even pay tribute to someone almost everyone knew—Lew Simon.

It was standing room only at St. Francis de Sales Church on Monday night as congregants from near and far gathered for the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service led by Father Bill Sweeney, Father Jim Cunningham, Msgr. John Bracken, Rabbi Rebecca Epstein and Student Cantor Gabriel Lehrman.

The service began with a Jewish Call to Worship and a Catholic Call to Worship, a Thanksgiving Day Prayer and a meditation to breathe in gratitude and exhale praise. The congregants were then tasked with meeting their neighbors and sharing the things they are thankful for. This was followed by songs sung by Cantor Gabriel and the St. Francis Children’s Choir, which sang “Let There Be Peace.” A collection was taken on behalf of The Graybeards to support the work they do for the community. Then everyone took some time to remember the late Assembly District Leader Lew Simon.

“May we take what we remember about him and bring it forth into the world as a blessing so we can carry on his values, though he is no longer here with us on this earth,” Rabbi Epstein said before inviting Richard Levy, the Honorable Jodi Orlow Mackoff, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and 100th Precinct Deputy Inspector Carlos Fabara to the front to give testimony about their friend, Lew. Though a somber event, each brought humor to their testimonies that reflected who Lew Simon was.

“We all know that you’re not a true Rockaway resident until you’re coming out of Stop and Shop or Waldbaums and Lew stopped you and asked you to sign a petition,” Levy said. “And those petitions were always something good for Rockaway, something good for the community, for the people who lived here and that’s really what Lew cared about.”

Mackoff, a longtime friend of Lew’s called him her biggest cheerleader through her career as a judge. “Lew lived his life to help others in the community and while he wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, he got things done because he was tenacious, he was loud and he was visible,” she said. “I’m really going to miss my friend and I know as a community, there will be a void without him here.”

“He was a pain in the tuckus, but he was my pain in the tuckus,” Pheffer Amato said. “He annoyed you until you did something good, and then you felt good about yourself. I cannot believe at 12 at night, he talked me to death and suddenly I’m putting up a Christmas tree. It was a lifetime commitment to his community that he’d go so far, all hours of the evening, to support people that would support him to support this community.”

Fabara said Lew supported his family for many years and was a big supporter of the precinct. “He cared about people, and he cared about this community he was a special man and for me to know Lew, was a privilege. To Lew, I say congratulations on a well lived life, a life of honor, and a life of purpose. The precinct will never forget you.”

Father Jim then let everyone know Lew left him something special—unintentionally. “He left me something that’s very valuable—his bullhorn. He didn’t give it to me, but we borrowed it and he died, soo…” he said, with the church erupting in laughter.

The service ended with a prayer for the country, followed by the organist playing “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America,” which the entire congregation sang in unison. All were invited enjoy desserts in the school gym afterwards.

By Katie McFadden 

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