Shneur Odze
Shneur Odze shocked many with his revelations he did not shake women's hands YouTube

Prospective Ukip MEP candidate Shneur Odze caused an uproar when it came to light he didn't shake women's hands because of his strict religious beliefs.

Odze said his Orthodox Judaism faith forbids him from any physical contact with the opposite sex apart, of course, from his wife.

But why is touching a female hand, arm or shoulder frowned upon by traditional Jews?

'Casual touching of members of the opposite gender can only dull our sensitivity to the sexual power of touch
- Rabbi Erdstein

According to Jewish academic Lorne Rozovsky it has nothing to do with impurity or the social and religious status of a person. But it has its roots within the book of Leviticus in the Bible.

Traditional Judaism ultimately regards touching a person of the opposite sex as a sensual act or at least a precursor to one being initiated.

Mr Rozovsky said: "While it is true that most handshakes between men and women do not lead to sexual relations and are not even contemplated, sexual relations always begin with touching. It is also true that a handshake does communicate feelings albeit on a superficial level."

The exception to the rule, however, is when men and women have to touch each other in a life-threatening situation or albeit in a business context, the shaking of hands is allowed under Jewish law.

Another argument behind the rationale of prohibiting touching keeps the relations between a husband and wife sacred.

Rabbi Baruch Emmanuel Erdstein, from Safed, a village in the north of Israel, said "casual touching of members of the opposite gender can only dull our sensitivity to the sexual power of touch".

In our Western culture where boundaries between men and women are often blurred in terms of social etiquette, is there something to learn from the Jewish puritanical stance rather than criticise it?

Other interesting customs

Jehovah's Witnesses are against blood transfusions because they believe the Bible prohibits the ingesting of blood.

In Mormonism, men and women are encouraged to wear special underwear as a 'personal reminder to the individual about their promises made to God'.

Mormon underwear
Special Mormon underwear

Within the Islamic culture it is a sin to pluck your eyebrows, keep pictures in your home and to even yawn - the latter, Mohammad says is from 'Satan'.