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).
THUS IS THE BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP!
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)