The Conspiracy

Is Michelle Obama the Newest Incarnation of a Shomer Negiah College Student?

Michelle Obama and the first family have a long history of handshake snafus. Most recently, the first lady shook hands with Tifatul Sembiring, a conservative Muslim and Indonesia’s information minister. One would assume that the shaking of hands between dignitaries is a no-brainer. “MObama, meet Mr. Sembiring.” “How do you do?”, as hands reach for one another. Not so. Sembiring, due to his religious tendencies, tries to avoid physical contact with women outside of his immediate family and would have therefore preferred to avoid a handshake from America’s famous arm-toned woman.

This handshake-gone-wrong brings to mind (a little too strongly, in my opinion)  a common interaction I witnessed in college: When a shomer-negiah student (usually a male) met an unknowing co-student for the first time. It often went down like this:

Unknowing co-student: “Hey! Are you in this Psych 101 class?”

Devout, halacha-abiding Freshman: “Hi! Yea! Should be a good class! I’m Josh.”

(Unknowing co-student offers her hand.)

Josh (Stammer. Stammer. Looks away.): “Oh, so weird! I don’t shake hands” OR (reluctantly shakes unknowing co-student’s hand).


New Voices has actually addressed this issue in the past. Shomer Negiah is a hot-topic on many campuses with large Modern Orthodox communities. A student like fictional-Josh usually figures out how to navigate such social interactions over time and experience. Maybe MObama should contact local GW’s Hillel for some advice…

(picture courtesy of HuffoPo)

Tags: , ,

4 Older Responses to “Is Michelle Obama the Newest Incarnation of a Shomer Negiah College Student?”

  1. joyce ellinsen
    November 9, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

    Michelle AGAIN demonstrates no class OR does exactly as she wants!

  2. Kunderemp - Indonesian Muslim
    November 9, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    Nice post.
    I didn’t know about Shomer Negiah after I read this post. Have to ask my Indonesian Jew friend (yes, there are Jews in Indonesia, most of them in Surabaya, East Java).

    Tifatul Sembiring came from the conservative Muslim and he was proud of it. That’s why a lot of Indonesian criticize him for being hypocrite. Worse, he blame Michelle. He shouldn’t blame anyone but himself (the video post in youtube prove the Minister initiate the handshake so it was not Michelle’s fault).

  3. WTF Joyce
    November 10, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    Watch the video Joyce Ellinson. The dude basically grabs her hand and has the biggest grin on his face. And quit bitching about the first lady . . .

  4. tempo dulu
    November 10, 2010 at 10:52 pm #

    Religion does funny things to people, doesn’t it?

WordPress Backup
Read previous post:
JVP: Student Activism Gone Wrong

Protest movements, to gain legitimacy, often relate their cause to another, more established one from the past. Thus we see...