Understanding the Touchy Topic of Shomer Negiah
6 months ago Shayna Solkowitz 0
“I’m sorry but I can’t shake your hand for religious reasons.”
This is what a lot of people who are Shomer Negiah say. Shomer Negiah translates to ‘Observant of touch.’ My best friend is intrigued by this concept and wanted to learn more, so I told her I’d study up on it and get back to her. When I started, I only knew a little bit about Shomer Negiah. I knew opposite genders don’t touch. That was kind of all I knew, yet I didn’t think I’d learn anything else on the topic. I thought that’s all there was to learn. As I started researching, I realized I was totally wrong.
Why are people Shomer Negiah? Well it depends who you ask. For a teenager that I asked it was “It gives me control of the situation, and makes me feel a little safer.” For an adult I asked it was, “To make a relationship more intimate.” For some people it might be “because the Torah says to.” Who ever you ask, the answer will probably vary. So, wait? Does this mean that no doctors can be Shomer Negiah? Or does this mean that if a girl or boy falls and the only person around is the opposite gender, that the person can’t be helped? No! There are exceptions to this topic. One of the most important I feel like to know is that in ANY life or death situation this topic doesn’t take place. Some more exceptions are 1. Any person in the health profession is aloud to touch the other gender 2. People may touch their spouse, sibling(s), parent and most allow grandparents of the opposite gender.
Something to know about Shomer Negiah is it’s COMPLETELY a self made decision. You could have grown up with the strictest parents who wouldn’t allow you within 10ft of the opposite gender, but at the end of the day it’s your choice. Shomer Negiah isn’t really an all or nothing thing. You can decide to give handshakes but not give high-fives, or handshakes and high-fives but not hugs. It’s what you feel comfortable with. You can also be shomer in one environment but not the other (Ex. CTeen vs. School).
Some of the things I heard while researching for my friend made me more conscious of how I’m going to interact with guys. I’m not necessarily going to tell a boy that I won’t shake his hand, but maybe I won’t hug all my guy friends. You may have to explain to someone why you won’t touch them, and that’s important because you don’t want them to feel singled out. You might accidentally go in for a handshake with someone who is Shomer Negiah once or twice, and that’s okay. It takes time getting used to the concept of someone being Shomer Negiah, but once you get it, it becomes easier.