|poster by Alison Rowan of http://www.alisonrowan.com/|
Perhaps Rabbi Walkin, an educator and kiruv [outreach] professional, doesn't realize that whole campaigns have been waged against the use of the word "retarded." Perhaps he doesn't realize that it is an offensive and derogatory term. Perhaps someone should send him a copy of Alison Rowan's poster and maybe a dictionary for other words that he might accidentally use without thinking of how they'll be received.
Now, to be fair, people slip up now and then. People may, at times, forget to think before speaking. NCSY's website even makes provisions for such lapses in judgement:
While it is reasonable to accept that minor incidents will occur from time to time when well-intentioned NCSY professionals, volunteers, or NCSYers, do or say the wrong thing, a prompt apology followed by a promise to be more careful in the future is usually sufficient to satisfy all involved. In general, the corrections needed to rectify such mistakes are of the scale equivalent to those of other normal and healthy relationships. When simple apologies are insufficient, other forms of recourse are available. These include contacting the Regional Director in whose Region the particular situation occurred, contacting a member of the NCSY International Office, and/or reporting a concern to the NCSY Ombudsman Telephone Hotline at 212-613-8361. In these instances, none of the above-mentioned reporting normally constitutes impermissible lashon hara [derogatory speech about another person] or any violation of any other Jewish laws pertaining to proper speech.1As a public figure looking to reach young non-orthodox Jews who are often pretty liberal and idealistic (and aware of how offensive a term the word "retarded" can be,) Walkin needs to be hyper aware of the language he is using. His own organization, the OU (Orthodox Union,) is affiliated with Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities. I can only imagine how many people, just within his own organization, may have been offended by this gross lack of judgement. Of course, that doesn't take into account how the very people who he's trying to reach might feel or react to this.
Deceptive outreach practices aside, I really do hope that Rabbi Avrohom Walkin will follow his own organization's set standards on how to handle those making derogatory comments. I am sure he has heard the story of how difficult it is to pick up the wind-scattered feathers from a feather bed, and I'm sure he understands how one's words can cause harm when just tossed about without thinking. This would be a good time for him to try to gather those feathers for the longer they are in the wind, the more harm they'll do.
1. NCSY Conduct, Policy, and Behavioral Standards Manual. NCSY. http://ncsy.org/standards/.