Editor’s note: This letter is one of a four-part correspondence, in which the term “retarded” is often used. However, in a letter to participants in a conference on the “Issues and Needs of Jewish Retarded,” the Rebbe expressed his view that this was an improper characterization, and that he much preferred the term “special.”

August 12,1980

Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson Lubavitch
770 Eastern Parkway,
Brooklyn, New York 11213

Dear Rabbi Schneerson:

Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Sharfman, chairman of Federation’s prospective conference on issues and needs of the Jewish retarded, has given me the honor and privilege to invite you (and/or your representatives) to address this conference. [ . . . ]

What should be remarkable about this conference is that not only will the participants be discussing how to make all aspects of Jewish living (e.g., education, community living, recreation, worship) available to the developmentally disabled individual and his/her family but also the participants, perhaps for the first time for a “Jewish” conference. [ . . . ]

It is no secret that the Lubavitch movement—perhaps more than any other Jewish group—has emphasized the critical significance of Jewish education for all Jewish boys and girls as well as the overall need of Yiddishkeit for all Jews. We would welcome a statement from you prepared for this occasion: to be read at the conference by either yourself or by a representative. You may also consider the possibility of sending a specially prepared taped message. Please feel free to consider any form of communication which you think would be most meaningful. [ . . . ]

May I take this opportunity to once again thank you for your continued interest and support. [ . . . ]

Wishing you and your entire family a very happy and healthy New Year.

Respectfully yours,

Robert Wilkes, DSW
Chairman, Brooklyn
Region 11 Council For
The Retarded