(JTA) — An Orthodox Jewish candidate for the European Parliament has caused a stir by refusing to shake women’s hands.
Shneur Odze told the members of the right-wing populist UK Independence Party, or UKIP, that he will not shake women’s hands due to his religious beliefs, which proscribe physical contact with any woman other than his wife, The Times of London reported.
Some party activists told the newspaper that they are offended by Odze’s stance and say it will alienate half the electorate.
Senior party officials have called the activists “rude” and “wrong” for not respecting Odze’s beliefs, according to The Times.
Ozde, 31, is fourth on the UKIP’s candidate’s list for member of the European Parliament from the North West of England. The Europe-wide election to the parliament is scheduled for late May.
A party regional organizer, Fred McGlade, resigned from his position with the party to protest the decision to include Odze on the list.
“We have a policy of tolerance for and acceptance of people’s own religious observance,” UKIP chairman Steve Crowther told the Times. “We do not consider it grounds for complaint. It harms no one.”
In a tweet on Monday, Ozde said, “Thanks for all the supportive emails, calls, texts, its been rather heartwarming Recon it’s had the reverse effect?”
A supporter also tweeted, referring to former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “Pretty standard among very Orthodox Jews. The Chief Rabbi didn’t shake Queen’s hand when he became a Lord.”