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The Handshake

Refraining from shaking hands with the opposite sex: bias vs. belief

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Visitor Comments: 97

(97) Anonymous, June 25, 2017 9:02 PM

Good fences make good neighbors

As a baa'l tshuva I don't have a problem with handshakes. However, I have a BIG problem with being forced to hug a person of either gender. I have recently decided that if I don't want to hug an acquaintance in a social situation, I will refrain from doing so.

(96) Omar Abdul-Malik, January 15, 2015 3:53 PM


Peace and greetings to you sir! This is a very sensitive issue. I am so glad you are addressing it! I didn't know this was part of the Jewish faith. I am an observant Muslim and thus REALLY try to avoid shaking hands with non familial women (non-mehram in Quran Arabic ). I work in medical and health education field with many females. I try different things like informing staff members in advance. Also, I have found that keeping my hands behind my back and giving a little head bow/nod (with an accompanying nice smile) and, apologies/explanation ("sorry, I'm Muslim and don't shake hands with women...etc.), usually is fairly well received by most women. I've only had a very women appear deeply offended. Wearing a beard and kufi helps identify as Muslim also (like you guys and the yamkha). Hope this helps. Peace

(95) Gavi Meyer, February 28, 2014 12:17 AM

Explaination aleiviates misunderstanding

If I know and understand why a certain custom is kept, I am not likely to be insulted or awkward. A quick good-natured one-liner explanation would probably cause me to blush and grin, and thank the person for cluing me in. So, I naturally presume I can try to do the reverse as well. . . . (in most cases). Be prepared to shrug off an occasional rebuff from someone who insists on being offended (no matter how polite you have been) because that is just "people". But, you know, this was not something that used to be a problem, so long ago. I am only 70 years old, yet I can remember when this hand shaking business was strictly a guy-thing. Deals and introductions, etc, were shaken upon by men to men. A handshake was considered a man's custom, and a woman doing it wound be seen as man-ish or brazen. Ladies, on the other hand, might gently take the hand of a newly introduced woman, or a long-time-no-see relative or girlfriend. What I am saying here, is that this hand-shaking problem pretty much rode in on the "women's lib" horse! Besides, a perceptive person can usually/often sense a potentially inappropriate hand-shake coming. (then is when you reach for you supposedly snotty tissue!)

(94) Anonymous, February 27, 2014 9:28 PM

Unintentional Hurt

Unintended Harm

It is MOST difficult. To this day it hurts my heart. Many years ago I was visiting schools in Israel with other senior government officials. The tour of one particular school and the presentations by faculty were superb. I was very impressed and posed several questions. My visiting male colleagues were clearly disinterested. They did not ask one question and could not appreciate what I was seeing and experiencing. After the tour the men all made a dash for the bus. I, however, stayed back to express my truly heartfelt gratitude.

As I extended my hand to the school Master, the gentleman threw his hands in the air; jumped away and shouted "I cannot touch a woman!" I was mortified. Never should I have put the fellow in this position. I should have known better. I was embarrassed beyond anything I can say here. What was even worse was that my colleagues witnessed the event from the bus. As I returned to the bus they said "Well, Valerie-Dawn,
what do you think of Jewish/Israeli hospitality now? It was all I could do to stay composed. By not remembering what I knew and not being totally aware of my behavior and speech, all this happened. People who know me would suggest that I am a feminist yet I feel responsible for the entire unpleasant event. To this day, it is a sorrow. It was a learning experience of great value

(93) Chaya Sarah Stark, February 27, 2014 9:24 PM

I think religious beliefs trumps everything else

I've been in this situation many many times. I consistently say "please don't be offended, but as an Orthodox Jewish Woman, I don't shake hands with men. Nothing personal"/ I've had the gamut of responses running from extreme anger to extreme respect. Witlhout sounding self -righteous, I feel that if I'm doing Hashem's will, I can be courteous, but don't have to be concerned about the outcome. One final caveat, If this statement were coming from an Amish person or someone from another gentile group, the response would be a lot less vociferous. We Jews are a passionate and chosen people. Our behavior gets noticed and commented on more frequently. There isn't much we can do about it except make sure our intentions are honorable.

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