According to the 1980 entry in Merriam-Webster, a High Five is “a slapping of upraised right hands by two people (as in celebration)”. The origin of the gesture remains unknown, but it was popularized in the world of American basketball culture of the late Seventies and early Eighties. Since then the act of raising one’s hand to slap the raised hand of another has transcended sport into every facet of life, and is widely recognized as signifying mutual satisfaction, congratulation, or approval.
While High Fiving is not exclusively Jewish, Jewish Young Adults seem to be prone to High Fiving to unprecedented degrees considering their typical lack of sport affiliation. In fact, the high five has can be employed as a stand in for almost any standard social contact.
For example, when two JYAs meet spontaneously or at a prearranged location they exchange a relaxed manual greeting, which, while it is definitely five, is not necessarily high (ie the “Low Five”). Or, if the JYA has recently enjoyed an achievement— like a conjugal encounter or a promotion at work— observers will note an enthusiastic and extremely high five.
One possible reason why JYAs High Five more than other groups could be their constant need for affirmation, possibly due to lingering maternalistic feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Another possible reason for JYA’s propensity to High Five could stem from their need to assert their uniqueness by bonding with other JYAs, particularly in public settings where they are surrounded by Non-JYAs.
For this reason, JYAs construct elaborate and unique “Fiving” rituals with those in their inner circle. These can be complex constructions that can take up to twenty seconds to complete, and can be accompanied by sound effects or verbal utterances. JYAs will never, under any circumstances be seen “giving ten.”
Truly, the splendor of nature’s variation is evident in the high fives’ diversity of expression in the JYA community. Even a casual observer will be rewarded with brilliant displays arising from seemingly ordinary circumstances.