Just about everyone knows there is a fine line between being endearing and awkward, especially when meeting new people. You know, the difference between shaking a hand and making it into a manly competition. Or how about when the other person doesn’t offer a hand at all?
Most people seem to manage the differences just fine. They know what is too much hand pressure or how rude it looks to not give their hand as a sign of cordiality.
However, the situation gets even more tricky in instances where different cultures or ranks are involved. For example, do Orthodox Jewish women shake hands? Should you bow in the presence of royalty?
The average American may not know how to act or perform in these latter examples unless previous experience or knowledge has been acquired.
As I said, it’s a fine line.
However, you would expect the leader of the free world and President of the United States to be on top of these things, right? I mean, part of his job title is to handle matters with foreign dignitaries and meet new people. So, as our leader, it is vital that he begins and retains amenable alliances, partnerships, etc., with people from all walks of life.
And yet, our current President doesn’t seem to know how to conduct himself in such matters, or at least not anymore.
A perfect example of this occurred recently when outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin came to the White House for his last official state visit.
The meeting happened on June 28 and included Biden, Rivlin, and his longtime aide Rivka Ravitz. According to The Times of Israel, Ravitz has been an aide to Rivlin since 1999 when he was still a mere lawmaker in his nation, and as such pretty much goes everywhere with him.
As The Jewish Voice recounts, the introductions began easily enough. First, Biden walked in, exchanged a hello-type greeting to Rivlin, and then Rivlin introduced his aide.
He said, “This is my chief of staff. She is very Orthodox, and you won’t believe how many children she has.” Rivlin proceeded to tell Biden that Ravitz is the proud mother of 12 children, on top of her hectic job as his aide.
Naturally, Biden was rather impressed, as I would imagine nearly anyone would be of Ravitz. However, instead of saying as much or offering some exclamatory remark such as ‘wow’ or ‘and they say my job is hard,” Biden dropped to his knee and bowed to her.
And no, I’m not kidding. The President of the United States bowed to a foreign aide.
Now, I am in no way, shape, or form trying to say that Ravitz didn’t deserve honor or praise for such accomplishments. However, as one of eight children with the same mother, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to birth and raise such a large family.
Neither am I saying that it is beneath Biden, as President or anything else, to bow. On the contrary, I actually admire humility in a leader.
However, in this case, his actions were nothing if not awkward.
And it was clear by both Rivlin and Ravitz’s reactions, I’m not the only one who thought so.
As the whole ordeal was caught on film, we can see that Rivlin is obviously stunned. Yet, as Biden drops to a knee and proceeds to bow, Rivlin doesn’t appear to know precisely what is going on. So he just stands there, clasping his hands awkwardly.
Ravitz, according to The Jewish Voice, was just as taken off guard and even said as much, commenting that she was “pretty shocked” and had there not been cameras in the room at the time, it’s likely “no one would have believed me.”
Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, when Biden become upright again, he offered his hand to Ravitz to shake. But as her Orthodox faith forbids, she could not shake hands with a man, so she declined.
Now, it is just me, or should Biden have known that already? I mean, her boss had just told Biden that she was Orthodox. Besides, it’s not like this was the first time Biden had met with women of her faith.
And yet, Biden didn’t seem to know how he should act at all, even throwing himself to his knees and bowing. He might have thought he was being cute or endearing, but as the reactions of everyone in the room, he was anything but.