NEW YORK — Whether she’s playing matchmaker during fine-tuned Shabbat gatherings, or telling Jewish-flavored jokes at New York City’s famed Gotham Comedy Club, 32-year-old Erin Davis places “modern Jewish love” at the heart of her career.
Originally from John’s Creek, Georgia, Davis is a self-described “southern Jewish girl” living out her dreams in the Big Apple. As a sought-after dating coach, the Georgetown University alum connects singles to each other the old-fashioned way — in person, without the use of dating apps. She’s also helped invigorate the city’s Shabbat scene for singles by organizing more than two-dozen “Shabbatness” dinners, a highly coveted but invite-only experience.
Four months ago, the Millennial matchmaker took a “leap of faith” by performing a 6-minute set at Manhattan’s Gotham Comedy Club. During that fateful evening, Davis met sit-com legend Jerry Seinfeld, who also performed. After appearing in several more shows at Gotham, Davis had the honor of Seinfeld “opening” for her during a March performance.
“I got in and I got lucky,” said Davis in an interview with The Times of Israel. Having performed a dozen sets in New York and Las Vegas since January, the blossoming comedienne cannot get enough of the spotlight, she said.
“I’m addicted,” said Davis of performing. “I’m one of those freaks who gets an endorphin rush from this. I want to push myself to try new material and to improve, to push myself to be uncomfortable,” she said.
In making hay of her personal life, Davis takes audiences back to her childhood in Georgia, where her parents met and courted at a Denny’s restaurant. As a teenager growing up outside Atlanta, Davis willed herself to lose 60 pounds and forge a new self-image, and the last laugh is on her audiences.
‘Even worse than being fat and Jewish in Georgia is being hairy’
“Even worse than being fat and Jewish in Georgia is being hairy,” Davis told the crowd at a recent Gotham show. After explaining the perils of being attracted to men who range in age from 22 to 62, Davis revealed that one of her eyebrows was accidentally — but permanently — waxed off by her unibrow-fearing mother.
“After many years I just got sick of penciling it in every day,” said Davis. “So I got it tattooed on, and now I’m a Jew with a tattoo,” said the petite comic.
As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, the “Jew with a tattoo” line is the closest Davis would go to joking about the Shoah, she said.
“It’s never okay to joke about it. I think the Holocaust should always be off-limits,” said Davis, who has visited several former Nazi camps with American Jewish Committee delegations.
Davis’s survivor grandparents — Roza and Kissel Goldberg — have long been her inspiration, she said. The couple met while hiding from the Nazis in occupied Poland, each having lost many family members. Their love story, noted Davis, underpins her most cherished matchmaking project: the staging of “Shabbatness” dinners for single Jews on the prowl, always held in private homes and “with lots of booze,” she said.
During the weeks before each gathering, Davis carefully selects who will fill the 12 seats. Having paid $72 to attend a Friday evening, participants come with expectations. Last year, two couples who met during “Shabbatness” dinners got married, and many others are still dating, said Davis.
To kick off 2017 with something new, Davis organized her first all-male gay dinner in December — “a big brisket dinner with a ‘Jew Year’s Eve’ theme and of course a rainbow challah,” said the Spanish-speaking socialite.
“I am a slave to these dinners,” said Davis, known for a trademark mini-skirt and high-heels. “I don’t sit at the table or eat. I run ice-breakers and deal with people who are coming in nervous,” she said. With some dinners lasting several hours past midnight, all kinds of relationships can form around the table.
“We have business deals come out of these dinners, and we have bromances. When people come together for a shared experience, anything can happen,” said Davis, who is “happily seeing” a man she set herself up with one year ago.
‘Momentum is everything in dating’
As a sought-after dating coach, Davis encounters clients who are unable to break into the dating scene.
“‘Can you get me out of my apartment and to an event you think I would like?’ is the most common request I get,” said the animal-loving Davis. She said many young adults are “overwhelmed” by the city’s Jewish community. To cater to this demographic, Davis became a “wing-woman,” taking her clients to bars and events where she can connect them to potential mates herself.
“I am the ice-breaker, I am the wing woman, I do it,” said Davis. “I am the flirt and I run over and connect people. I want them to meet in an organic and wholesome way,” said the effusive coach, who also helps clients avoid common dating mistakes.
“The biggest mistake that people make after coming to an event like ‘Shabbatness’ is trying to go out with only their top choice first,” said Davis. “They wait too long to contact the second person. No, no, no! Contact them all right away, because momentum is everything in dating,” said Davis, who will soon be a certified personal trainer.
In addition to her Holocaust survivor maternal grandparents, Davis was influenced by the lives of her father’s parents. Their relationship, too, was forged by working through obstacles together.
‘My grandparents’ perseverance and commitment to each was inspiring’
“My grandparents were both deaf,” said Davis. “My dad was an only child born with hearing and full speaking ability, but American Sign Language is his first language,” she said. “My grandparents’ perseverance and commitment to each was inspiring,” said Davis, who moved to New York City in 2010 with virtually no connections in town.
Next up, the rising comic hopes to wrap negotiations for a reality TV show based on her romance gigs, said Davis. A wearer of many hats, she is also completing a graduate degree in international affairs at The New School, where Davis researched the role of “love as a bridge-builder between Judaism and other faiths.”
Whether on stage with Seinfeld or leading a “Shabbat Shvitz” work-out, Davis said that one theme connects her endeavors to each other.
“With all of my projects and businesses, I am trying to address modern Jewish love,” said the Millennial matchmaker.