New Yorkers who are used to seeing the Chabad’s Jewish community’s ‘Mitzvah Tank” trucks barreling around the city saw something different this year – an animation short of former Democratic District Leader Geoffrey Davis’ children’s book, Love Yourself Love Each Other.
The book tells of the real-life encounters of Davis and his older brother, the late City Councilman James E. Davis with the late Lubavitch Jewish Grand Rebbe Menachem Mendal Schneerson.
Schneerson (1902-1994) is arguably the most important modern-day rabbi in Jewish history. He is credited for creating the Chabad movement, a network of more than 3,600 institutions that provide religious, social and humanitarian needs in over 1,000 cities, spanning 100 countries and all 50 American states.
The book tells the story of Geoff and James as young boys growing up on Brooklyn Avenue just off Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights a block away from the Synagogue building at 770 Eastern Parkway where Schneerson worked and prayed. Schneerson would often walk home to where he lived on President Street, cutting down Brooklyn Avenue where he got to know the Davis brothers and would sometimes stop and talk to the young boys.
It was during one of these conversations when the Davis brothers were arguing over a basketball, that Schneerson told the boys to stop arguing and to, “Love Yourself, Love Each Other.” It is a variation of this thought that has since morphed into Davis’ national James E. Davis Love Yourself Stop Violence Foundation, which has spawned a number of similar organizations aimed at stopping black on black violence.
Although a lifelong Christian, who still lives in the Brooklyn Avenue house where he grew up, Davis remains very close with the Chabad community, and its overall message to fight hate and fear-mongering amongst the world’s people and find the common threads that bind humanity.
It is for this reason, that Davis was recently given the United Nations Menorah of Peace award for his work in addressing hate. A menorah is the candlestick holder utilized to celebrate the eight days of the Jewish holiday Chanukah.
“This is a super honor to me. It superseded the Emmy [Davis won for a documentary on his late brother] because it addresses hate and non-violence,” said Davis.”It is for my lifelong work, particularly in Crown Heights, and bringing the Jewish, Caribbean, Black-American and Haitian communities together.”
Davis, who received the award in front of the United Nations building in Manhattan, said as COVID-19 continues to plague the world and this being the holiday season, it is more important than ever to spread the message of peace and good will towards each other.
“Other awards I’ve received were important, but this one brought things to another level. Representatives from many other countries were on hand and they all took a stand for peace,” he said.