How To Avoid Handshakes

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    Achdus Fan

    Hello Everyone. I have been reading on this forum for a while and have finally decided to join the fun! (I don’t think I’ll be posting often, but every once in a while I might have something to say…)

    So here’s the question:

    I am about to finish my education in a professional field, and have started to interview at various firms. When someone extends their hand to me (i.e. an interviewer, client etc.)… what is the proper way to explain to them that I cannot shake their hand? Obviously I don’t want to compromise on my religious beliefs, but I also don’t want to offend anyone. I understand that if I lose a job opportunity because of this, then that is what Hashem wants, but does anyone have any ideas of how to get the point across in a nice way?

    Please only answer if you have professional experience… it’s a whole different world out there!


    You can say that your wife doesnt want you shaking other women’s hands. Said nicely, with a smile, anyone will understand this and not take offense.

    Good Luck!!


    My husband says politely, “I’m sorry, my religion doesn’t allow me.”

    Hatzlacha finding a job!


    This poster has determined how to conduct him(her) self and is asking for advice on how to approach the problem practically.

    We dont need another discussion about the permissibility of shaking hands.


    Sometimes body language speaks for itself. I try keeping my hands clasped behind my back.

    Here is some good news for you. Because of all the new diseases that has recently cropped up, people are less willing to “share germs” and are a little less eager to shake hands to begin with. So some job nod with a nice to meet you.



    In my limited experience explaining briefly and with a smile works fine.


    I’ve heard that people are understanding when you say nicely “in my religion, men shake hands with men and women shake hands with women.”

    A teacher of mine once said that she was in that situation and when the man extended his hand she couldnt think normally and just handed him the papers that she was holding. He looked confused, but he wasnt insulted

    Ken Zayn

    What I do is to always hold something in my right hand when coming to a meeting eg papers or a bag etc. Then just say firmly and politely that for religious reasons you may not shake hands with people of the opposite gender. It has always worked for me and you know what – ppl respect you for it!!! They know you will not compromise on your standards. Hatzlocho!!


    I smile and say I don’t shake hands with men for religious reasons. If possible, let people know beforehand. For example, if you have a meeting planned in advance, you can send an e-mail and let them know. Depending on the circumstances, sometimes it works to have your hands full.


    As part of a group doing an interview, I received an email from a Muslim (!) candidate just after settling on the time and date of the interview. He said something along the lines of “I’m looking forward to meeting all of you. I just want to let you know in advance that for religious reasons I don’t shake hands with women. I mean no disrespect at all and I hope that you understand.”

    I thought it was a very classy way to deal with it, and much easier to explain in advance.


    I heard about someone who sneezed into her hand when a man stretched his hand out to shake hers. That was a quick escape!


    to repeat:

    This poster has determined how to conduct him(her) self and is asking for advice on how to approach the problem practically.

    We dont need another discussion about the permissibility of shaking hands.


    greet everyone with a snappy salute!

    Seriously though, last year this was an issue when people were worried about the possibility of a flu pandemic. Perhaps we need a different form of sanitary (and tznius) greeting.


    I usually enter the room with my finger up my nose to the third knuckle. I never have a problem.

    Actually, I have never encountered negativity after refusing to shake. I explain with a smile that I can’t shake.

    I don’t say that men can’t touch women, I just say I can’t shake. I don’t think there is any reason to get into the discussion.

    Be Happy

    Honesty is the best policy. I explain that as a religious orthodox lady I am not permitted to shake hands with men! We had a Prince (from English Royalty) come visit. He stretched out his hand to shake my hand – I was nervous and told him the truth, He apologised. My boss was upset with me (he said I should have shaken hands) but then could not say anything when the prince asked why he had not been forwarned.

    not I

    I like the response of Mother In Israel!

    My father always has business card ready to give the woman. I guess if you are still looking for a job you would need a title on the business card under your name!! 🙂


    A couple of issues here:

    1) there are people who do shake hands. If you say your religion does not allow it, then the person may think either your are a faker, or the one who does shanke hands is a faker.

    2) whatever you say, it could reasonably be interperted that you or your religion has something against females, and if the person is not jewish, and even worse, if she is black, could be interpreted as being against people in one or both of the above 2 categories.

    3) “my wife doesnt allow it” sounds that you are married to a nut-case

    I feel the best approach :

    1) realize that it is a very uncomfortable situation – for chizuk carry in your mind a “dimus de’yokno” of your rosh yeshiva, or maybe your chavrusah, or maybe even the best – your wife. Would you shake hands with the lady if they were present? (derech agav, the is a great shemirah against being nichshal in pe-ritzsus in the workplace – would you joke around with a lady colleague if your wife was present?

    2)be mispallel that all should go well

    3) try to avoid – carry stuff in your hands

    4)if a hand is strecthed out, then say: “Among orthodox Jews there are various traditions, and by some, even men and women in the same family do not shake hands”. I beleive this statement quickly and effectively addresses the issues.

    Hatzlacha ve’chol tuv


    I once heard an intresting story from my grandmother that happend in Hungry before WWII. The president of Hungry Mr. Harti togeter with is wife came to visit a jewish store in Budapast. Mrs. Harti extended her hand to shake the store owners hand, but he said “in our religion the man is shaking the other mans hand while the lady shakes the other ladys hand”. There was an uproar in the communitty with people saying that it was a “chilul hashem”, however the next day Mrs. Harti was qouted in the newspaper saying “what a beutifull religion”.


    mod 80

    kudos to you, at least your fair and you removed both posts.

    Mother in Israel

    that’s disgusting


    I have had this before… how to conduct yourself may depend a little on what your job is. For example, psychologists/social workers may have more trouble because they need to “join” (jargon term)with the clients to be able to help them.

    Some people really understand and think highly of you for it- just say “for religious reasons I don’t shake hands with people of the opposite gender except for immediate family and spouses”. I had someone sincerely ask me what religion I represented and they were completely fine with it. They might ask you a question and just respond truthfully without making yourself sound “wacko” or “holier than thou”.

    Sometimes you have a feeling you won’t be understood. In that case hold a resume in that hand (good to be prepared with that as well). You might want to hold a tissue in your hand and apologize for being under the weather. This works well if you are on an interview or first day on the job, when you may have to shake many hands… I have had this experience before and found being honest, sincere, but not aloof works best! good luck- it can be uncomfortable at first until you practice your “speech”.


    Kol hakavod, Mod! See what a productive, useful and interesting discussion we can have.


    Its interesting to read others suggestions, I find myself in the same situation all the time. I usually try to hold something in my hands so it would be awkward to have to shake hands. But theres always one client who tries to kiss me…I cringe and politely tell him to back away!! I find it very difficult sometimes being a woman in the secular work force and keeping shomer negiah and yichud to the letter of the law.

    I work for an accounting firm and meet with clients, bankers, sales people on a regular basis, some are aware that I am a religious girl, but most dont realize or dont care, its definitely a struggle for me.


    just tell them that for religious reasons you cant shake a woman’s hand. we arent the only religion with such rules, and even if we were there is no reason to be ashamed of it. dont lie about germs or your wife, be proud of who you are and tell them that judaism does not permit it. politely of course…but firmly.


    Frankly, in nearly two decades in the business world I have yet to ever encounter someone who wasn’t entirely understanding of it.

    Yes, sometimes a person will respond with some questions, but that’s ok.

    Lying to them by using some excuse about germs or wives is ridiculous. People are not stupid and they will see that you are not being genuine. If not immediately, soon enough.

    In this day and age there is no reason not to be honest about your beliefs. A person will be less insulted if you are honest and up front.


    People seem to appreciate it more when you say “It’s not about you, it’s just that my religion…”

    Perhaps you might want to say, “It’s not about HATCHOO! you…”

    Achdus Fan

    Thanks everyone for your advice. It’s very comforting to know that other people encounter the same situation and are able to overcome it. (And thank you moderator for keeping the discussion on track.)

    Have a good shabbos!


    Sneeze into your hands right before they extend theirs… 🙂

    The Wolf

    (Before someone starts yelling at me — yes, I’m kidding)

    Achdus Fan

    Wolf –

    I don’t think anyone’s going to yell at you for that, since you’re not the only one who has mentioned that idea.

    And just to clarify— no, that is not the approach I will be using.


    I say: “For religious reasons of modesty, I do not shake hands with the opposite sex.”


    I say, “My religion considers women to be unclean, and untouchable. I don’t want to get into details.”

    That is on interviews. I haven’t decided what I’ll do on the job.


    I don’t know if anyone mentioned this…because I didn’t read through all the responses…

    I think it’s a good idea to give them a heads up BEFORE the interview. Maybe you can email them a short explanation, so you won’t be uncomfortable and they won’t be uncomfortable. Hopefully, they will pass on this information to whoever will be coming into contact with you.


    “3) “my wife doesnt allow it” sounds that you are married to a nut-case”

    And that your wife henpecks you. Don’t blame religious observance on someone else. It sounds apologetic.


    The Ponevezer Rov once had to meed with the queen and had the same problem. Upon reaching the queen he started speaking with much animation and his hands high in the air while speaking about the royal family etc, by the time he finished the handshake to be was long forgotton!!

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