Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another religion/etiquette question

I have another problem with religious etiquette and I'd like some input on this one. This is serious, not so much the hooch-fuelled rant of 4 July, as a serious question about etiquette and when and where religious practices are appropriate or not. And what the hell is up with the inconsistency in this one practice.

Okay, I was just introduced to someone who is an Orthodox Jewish male. I went to shake his hand, and he refused, just saying "Sorry, I'm not allowed."

I made the assumption that it's because I'm female. I tried to think of some other reason - he certainly couldn't tell anything about me, my cultural background, religious or non-religious leanings, etc. just by looking at me - the only visible cue he had to go on was my gender. So, right, must be the female thing. Putting aside that this is just another example of misogyny-with-a-religious-excuse, and just about all religions have them, so I'm not picking on the Jews here, AT ALL, I didn't say anything, just passed it off quietly in the name of not making a scene or causing discomfort.


BUT: A few minutes later, when he was introduced to another female, this time a member of our faculty, I looked over and, you guessed it, he shook her hand!

Now, I am a clean person, he certainly didn't see me handling food before the introduction, or coming out of a bathroom or anything. I literally stepped off an elevator, and was introduced to several people, him being the last I came to. And when I got back to my office I immediately googled a few phrases or words to see if I could come up with some answer, but none was to be had. Some Orthodox Jewish males do not shake hands with women, fine, my google search revealed that quickly enough. So, wrong and stupid and backwards and caveman and misogynist as I think that is, I'm just...whatever, dude.

But why not shake hands with me, but then shake hands with another female - in the same context, event, room, program, etc.? Is it my long hair? Did he make an assumption about my marital status? Does it have anything to DO with marital status and any assumptions he may have gotten wrong? (For example, the other woman he DID shake hands with is married - but so am I, and my ring is displayed just as obviously as hers. Nah, that can't be it.)

Anybody got an answer for this? Because, frankly, I am a little bit, shall we say, verklempt?

15 Comments:

Blogger daisy mae said...

andraste, i think the term you're looking for is 'shomer nagia'... essentially orthodox jews do not shake hands (or touch, barring a medical emergency) with members of the opposite sex unless they are married or related to them. some orthodox jews extend this to members of their congregation. my thought is that perhaps this man assumed you weren't orthodox because you aren't a part of his synagogue, whereas he is either related to the other woman in some way, or she is also orthodox jew.

hope that helps!

17 July, 2008 14:25  
Blogger Andraste said...

Thanks, Daisy Mae, but that's not it. The other woman is neither a Jew, nor a member of his synagogue, nor a relation. I was also seated at the same table as both of them during lunch, and they clearly did not know each other before today - so in both cases, a first time meeting.

So - definitely still an unanswered inconsistency going on here...

17 July, 2008 14:50  
Blogger David Sullivan said...

Were you wearing your I 'heart' Bacon T-Shirt? Kidding aside, I just called my golf buddy who happens to be jewish and he confirms that Orthadox Jews are allowed to touch women except their wife or relatives. No idea why he shook your collegues hand and refused yours.

17 July, 2008 15:04  
Blogger Andraste said...

Hey David - thanks for going that extra yard to ask this question!

It's the inconsistency that has me confused. Maybe as I get to know this guy better I'll eventually feel comfortable enough to ask him. Right now, I'm afraid i'd just come off as confrontational - because I FEEL confrontational!

17 July, 2008 15:10  
Blogger Chris Cope said...

Maybe he's just a prick.

17 July, 2008 15:12  
Blogger daisy mae said...

i wonder if he made a judgment call based on dress? any chance that the other woman was wearing an almost floor length skirt, while you were wearing pants? i know it sounds weird, but i've met some orthodox jews who feel that dress is a very very important factor (it deals with modernity v tradition).

however, i also wouldn't be hesitant to ask him why the discrepancy (in a non-confrontational manner) as most people are happy to share information about their faith, especially in order to not give the wrong impression.

of course, as previously stated, he might just be a prick.

17 July, 2008 15:17  
Blogger Andraste said...

Chris! Long time no type! I like your answer - yes, that could be it. Must confess it was my first instinct. but then it always is...

Daisy - nope - both the other woman and myself were in pants. Jeans for me, light summer slacks for her. Unless he has an issue with jeans (in which case, fuck him and the scapegoat he rode in on) I don't think clothing was it...

He might just be a prick. That's what I'm running with for now, at least until I can ask him.

17 July, 2008 15:23  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

He sounds plain old rude to me. I would have asked him there and then why he wouldn't shake my paw too. Less pondering that way.
And also happy Friday to you, I assume you're clock watching like I am.

18 July, 2008 11:07  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

I would just ask him. I wouldn't have been rude about it - may be just said "I noticed you shook that other woman's hand but not mine, why is that? I don't know anything about your religion so I'm curious."

He has no business feeling uncomfortable with a straightforward question like this. He brought he matter up in refusing to shake your hand. The act is an inherently ostentatious act, There is nothing wrong in asking about it, in my view.

18 July, 2008 11:13  
Blogger Andraste said...

Good afternoon Ladies!

I will eventually ask him, will need to if I'm to stop being pissed off.

yes, definitely watching the clock. And it's not moving, the fucker.

18 July, 2008 11:21  
Blogger Nora said...

Maybe the other woman is more manly looking than you?

20 July, 2008 08:26  
Blogger Medbh said...

Was she in a position of power/authority? If he wanted to suck up to her for something, he wouldn's risk offending her by saying he couldn't shake hands because she has a nasty vagina.

20 July, 2008 18:43  
Blogger Andraste said...

I think that's probably it, Medbh. She is on the faculty and has written a book that he complimented pretty glowingly. I think he was sucking up. Actually, now that I think about it, he really WAS sucking up all through lunch - it was pretty obvious and a little bit gross.

But he'll soon learn that even though I'm not faculty, I do have the respect of the faculty, as well as some clout...I can be his best friend or his worst enemy, depending on how he moves through the program and what kinds of little games he wants to play.

20 July, 2008 20:21  
Blogger MikeP said...

The rude thing seems to be that he came right out and said he wouldn't shake your hand--like he was making a point about it.

I think you should have smacked him for that comment, even before you knew about him shaking the other woman's hand. Just no reason to single you out and publicly embarrass you--religious grounds or not!

21 July, 2008 19:50  
Blogger Kim Ayres said...

Sam's written exactly what I was going to say

22 July, 2008 13:55  

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