Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
Assemblyman John McGowan (left) and Senator Bill Weber (right) pose for a picture in front of the Evergreen supermarket in Monsey.

Everyday kosher food shoppers are not used to seeing elected officials roaming around a kosher supermarket meeting and greeting constituents, especially if the legislators are not Jewish. This past Sunday, Assemblyman John McGowan (R – Pearl River, Rockland County) and Senator Bill Weber (R – Montebello, Rockland County) surprised them.

Unannounced, McGowan and Weber met some of their constituents who were doing Passover shopping. The Jewish Press tagged along for their journey at the Evergreen supermarket in Monsey.


The duo first met Monsey resident Shimon Lichter, 16, who was surprised when the senator and assemblyman approached him for a chat.

“We’re shopping. Getting everything done. My grandfather is coming over for the seder. The best thing I like about Passover is the whole family sitting together, enjoying together,” Lichter told the lawmakers.

“It’s really great to represent people who share our values,” Weber said, followed by McGowan who told the youngster, “I want to wish you and your family a good Passover. I agree with you. The best part of any holiday for me is getting together with family. I hope you and your family enjoy Passover and have a wonderful time.”

When asked about the bombing of Israel from Iran and the war between Hamas and Israel, Lichter said, “I hope everything goes fine and the war stops.”

Another person randomly stopped while shopping was Monsey resident Jacob Lichter, 54, an accountant by profession.

Senator Bill Weber (center) makes a light-hearted joke. Shimon Lichter of Monsey (left) and Assemblyman John McGowan (right) enjoy the humor.

“I am too. I’m a CPA,” Weber said. “A lot of our community here is getting ready, shopping for Pesach, and it’s great to represent so many people and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

“I’ve been watching politics for many years. We always see you [Weber] here. As far as I’m concerned, you, Michael Lawler and you, Mr. McGowan, are the most active politicians here. We always see you and you’re always close to the community and we appreciate that very much,” Lichter told the lawmakers.

Then Lichter mentioned what annoys him. “My biggest problem to complain about are the potholes,” he said.

“We all know the roads in New York state, especially down here in Rockland, are an embarrassment and I’m using that word lightly,” Weber told Lichter. “The roads are in a terrible situation. We’re coordinating all the information to have people report potholes so we can speak to the area representative for the state DOT [Department of Transportation], the county, the town, the villages to get them to really fix the roads because people’s quality of life are being affected by it. Government, at a minimum, should be making sure that we deal with our infrastructure and our roads. We could talk about how their money should be spent on a million other things in the world but basic things like the roads and infrastructure is something that’s important. It’s been a long time coming because the state has not made the investment for the longest time on roads in the county.”

(To report potholes in Rockland County, go to

McGowan picked up where Weber left off. “Talking about roads is a universal issue. It affects everybody in the county whether you’re going to work or going to school, picking your kids up. It highlights a lot of what we do. I want to wish you and your family a happy Passover.”

Senator Bill Weber (right) and Shimon Lichter of Monsey chat about his upcoming Pesach seder with family.

There was one encounter where a shopper recognized the two lawmakers and stopped them for a chat.

“We have some good people around. They are always here, always in the community. You always see their faces. They’re not just sitting somewhere in an office,” Monsey resident Moishe Farkas, 31, told the lawmakers. “They are actually very active and very local. Lately, they’ve all been very active. We like seeing politicians. It’s very helpful to the community, to everybody, when politicians are actually active. I don’t think in Rockland that we ever had politicians who are so active and helping out. It’s definitely noticed in the community.

Farkas works in construction and is a contractor. He is also an EMT and volunteers for a Jewish AAA-style organization.

“I’m a volunteer of Chaverim [Friends] of Rockland, founded 21 years ago. It’s a community organization,” Farkas explained. “We do anything you would call a friend to come over and give you a hand [to do]. We help people with flat tires, people who run out of gas, lockouts from houses and vehicles. We have an elite search and rescue team that does wilderness search and rescue. We get about 100 to 150 calls a day in busier seasons and during bad weather.”

“Thank you for all you do. All the services you do, being a friend, being a neighbor, that’s such vital important work you do,” McGowan told Farkas. “I want to wish you and your family a happy Passover. With everything that’s difficult going on in the world, it’s important we get together during the holidays so I wish you and your family a great time.

Farkas revealed that his son is directly involved with defending Israel.

“My son is home now but he’s going back at the end of the week to Israel. It’s scary when those things happen but G-d is watching us from above and thank G-d nothing [bad] really happened, it was just a bunch of noise they [The Iranian government] made,” Farkas said. “They are scared to do any more than that. We always pray to G-d to protect us and we hope for the best.”


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Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at [email protected].