He grew up in a working class family in Clapton, and went to Hackney Downs School. He studied history at LSE, in Vienna, and at the Hebrew University, and Yiddish in Columbia, New York. He lectured in Modern European History focusing on Central and Eastern Europe. He also taught Yiddish language and literature for many years. He wrote widely on Yiddish literature. He worked with Holocaust survivors in Yiddish, and had worked on films and in the theatre in English and Yiddish”
In 1983 he was involved in writing the Gay Purim Spiel. (a purim spiel is a dramatic performance traditionally performed at the Jewish feast of Purim).
He was a founder member of Icebreakers and a member of the Jewish Gay Group. He took a leading role in the Kabbalat Shabbat for the Jewish gay community on Friday nights at a location provided by Rabbi Dov Marmur of Alyth Gardens Synagogue.
He is survived by his partner of a quarter of a century, Fabrizio.
- Barry Davis, Yiddish and the Jewish Identity, History Workshop, 1987
- Colin Schindler, "Obituary: Barry Davis", Jewish Chronicle, 18 January 2018.
- Disa Witkowska, Viktoria Makai, "An interview with Barry Davis, our Yiddish Teacher" Danube on Thames, Archived by the Internet Archive, 20/01/2018).
- "London: a central place in the creation and consolidation of LGBT+ Jewish identity", Queer Beyond London (Archived by the Internet Archive, 20/01/2018).