Last fall, Rav Yuval Cherlow, a highly respected Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem, sparked a furious debate after he
suggested that a man should shake the hand of a woman if she extends it.
I’ve long known not to offer my hand to an Orthodox Jewish man because it puts them in an awkward situation. I slipped once, when I jumped to my feet to thank an Orthodox Jewish man for coming to my journalism class and extended my hand. He shook it and immediately afterward I remembered that I shouldn’t have done it. It was too late, and he seemed fine with it.
Recently, I was at B&H Photo in Manhattan purchasing some equipment and had a wonderful talk with one of the Orthodox Jewish salesmen, at the end of our conversation I smiled and thanked him and said, “I would shake your hand if I could.” He seemed pleased with my statement.