Traditional Jewish insights into mental retardation and their educational implications
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The last twenty-five years has brought increased recognition of the educational rights of individuals with mental retardation and with it, increased programming in the Jewish community to meet their needs. Through the use of hermeneutics, this paper seeks to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the halakhic status and needs of mentally retarded individuals. It is posited that this knowledge, in conjunction with the latest scientific and special education thinking, can assist rabbinical, professional, and lay community leaders in developing halakhically appropriate programming and enhancing communal integration opportunities for Jewish persons with mental retardation.;This paper surveys the field of mental retardation including its history, definitions, causation, behavioral characteristics, and instructional models. Early discussions of mental retardation reveal a variety of opinions as to its halakhic status and it remained difficult to make any determination as to which individuals with mental retardation are actually obligated to perform the commandments and which are not.;Judaic tradition enthusiastically supports the notion of special education for individuals with mental retardation. Additional research explores the more modern history of Jewish special education including programming and philosophy serving individuals with mental retardation. In addition to the social, vocational, and recreational elements of special education, this author sketches and recommends a two-part instruction model of Target and Support Behaviors to meet the halakhic demands of the curriculum and to enhance meaningful inclusion into the religious Jewish community.;It is the intent of this author to provide greater insight into and understanding of a population long neglected by the community. It is therefore hoped that this effort will encourage others to build on this work.