Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
770 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11213

Dear Rabbi Schneerson:

The conference (attended by about 250 persons) on "Serving The Jewish Retarded Issues and Needs," sponsored by Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, is over but our work has really just begun. We will again meet on January 15, 1981 to review what has been accomplished and what we must do in the days ahead. At the conclusion of our conference, we made a number of recommendations - a few of them are:

1. Federation has to sponsor more group homes (with Kosher Kitchens) for the retarded;

2. Federation has to allocate more funds to all aspects of Jewish education including special education;

3. We have to influence Hebrew Day Schools not to utilize I.Q. tests to disqualify children and thereby deprive them of a Jewish education;

4. We have to support the UJA - Federation campaign since we cannot expect 'to take' without also 'giving'.

5. We must continue to request the various Boards of Rabbis throughout the city to issue proclamations on behalf of our Jewish retarded and developmentally handicapped.

It was a remarkable conference! I have not had the opportunity to attend many Federation conferences but I can say with pride that for two days (Dec. 10th and 11th) all the participants - Jews from all walks of life - spoke about the very same things you had noted in your message: Torah, Mitzvahs and Yiddeshkeit.

Let me be candid. A few weeks prior to the conference (I had informed Rabbi Groner) I was greatly discouraged by the fact that some orthodox groups, rather abruptly, withdrew their support due to sharp differences in religious perspectives (or principles). I had no idea that our community was so polarized: that various parties have such little respect for each other's viewpoints. Why is it so difficult for our religious groups to accept their own philosophy and practice while at the same time accept (and respect) the contribution that another group can make to Judaism? (I secretly thought that this conference - at which time we all would sit down together as a unified community - would increase the sense of unity within our community and thereby speed the arrival of the Meshiach.) Nevertheless, I left the conference with a feeling of hope and verve.

There was one question, however, raised by a mother that made us pause and reflect as to the nature of our existence: If the primary purpose of existence is to fulfill G‑d’s commandments; and if a Jew is unable, from childhood, to carry out any of these commandments because of severe physical and mental limitations; what then is the purpose (or meaning) of his/her existence? I would be most appreciative if you would respond to this question.

All our children are entitled to be educated Jewishly. With G‑d's help all our goals and dreams for our children will become a reality in our generation.

Once again, thank you for your concern and understanding.

Sincerely Yours,

Robert Wilkes, DSW Member of Federation’s Planning Committee For The Retarded

P.S. Copies of your first letter written to me on 22 Av, 5739 as well as your message and greetings to the conference participants were included in a kit distributed to each participant. Enclosed is a conference kit. Your message was read by myself immediately after our dinner on Wednesday, December 10th. We also learned that you had just a few days previously endorsed the UJA-Federation campaign. Both your endorsement and message generated a sense of excitement and challenge that enhanced our deliberations. cc: Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Sharfman, Chairman Rabbi Isaac Trainin, Director Religious Affairs Committee