Every Messiah – be they the real deal or a great, great person – needs disciples to spread their message from outside their direct sphere of influence, and for the Chabad Jewish movement that disciple is Democratic District Leader Geoffrey Davis. (Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush).
The beginning of that message is conveyed with the first edition of Davis’ Love Yourself Book Series, aptly titled Love Yourself Love Each Other, written by Davis and Meda Leacock, a young children’s book chronicling the real-life encounters of Davis and his older brother, the late City Councilman James E. Davis with the Lubavitch Jewish Grand Rebbe Schneerson.
Schneerson 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.
Chabad institutions also provide outreach to unaffiliated Jews, which in itself was and remains a radical idea within Judaism – a religion that does not proselytize and generally believes the relationship between God and self is very personal, and should remain between God and self, even among Jews.
Additionally, Schneerson believed that all Jews as well as non-Jews, have special sparks of Godliness within themselves to do acts of kindness that should be fostered through humanitarian aid.
It is for these reasons and others that a good many of the estimated 200,000 Chabad adherents consider Schneerson to be the Messiah – the promised deliverer of the Jewish nation prophesied in the Hebrew Bible.
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.
“I consider myself a follower of the Grand Rebbe,” said Davis, a lifelong Christian, who still lives in the Brooklyn Avenue house where he grew up. “He was kind and quiet, a lost-in-thought spiritual person, if you will. I still go to Queens to pray and pay homage. I just went two weeks ago, where I still have conversations and ask for guidance.”
Davis said he hopes both the book and the books to follow in the series will appeal to young readers as he feels this is the age where stereotypes regarding other races and cultures are formed. The book also teaches how ridiculous confrontations over nothing such as a basketball game can be easily resolved, he said.
“Growth and development at an early age, and instilling love is extremely important. I have an obligation as a peace activist to find numerous ways to reach people and to do so starting at the youngest age,” said Davis.
Leacock, an accomplished Brooklyn born and raised “gatekeeper” for many high profiled celebrities and athletes as well as an author, C.E.O. of her own company, community liaison and philanthropist, said she was drawn to co-authoring the book for much the same reasons.
“My mission every day is to mentor and motivate and when I heard Geoffrey’s story in my mind, I felt the story needed to be told,” she said.