JULY 30. 2020 KELLEY KIDD
I am now 78 years old whose vocation is as a public defender lawyer in the small Georgia city of Statesboro. I have been a Jew since a brief ceremony in 1977. Of course I am a convert, one whose personal religious history had been rooted in a Southern protestant family and churches. This little essay is an effort to tell how and why I have been trying for more than forty years to be as good a Jew as i could be.
GETTING INTRODUCED BY THE KING JAMES VERSION OF THE BIBLE. For four hundred years the King James translation of the Bible has been the cornerstone of Protestant religion. When the old South is called the bible belt, it is that particular book that is being referred to. And there is no greater stronghold of evangelical fundamentalist Christianity than this region. There is no more greater concentration of those fundamentalist values than middle Georgia, and my home town of Milledgeville had been the capital of Georgia for sixty years. So my upbringing was soaked in the values of churches which had broken with national churches over slavery and continued traditions of white supremacy, although the words were never said out loud.
1968 THE VISIBLE DIMENSIONS OF CHANGE
I believe 1968 was the single most crucial year in my eventual decision to convert to Judaism, although I did not formally take that step until nine years later. What makes that fact a bit more than odd is the fact that I had no close Jewish associates in 1968. To an outside observer my transformations that year were that I stopped working as a lawyer, although I passed the Bar Exam in that year and did not actually become a member of the Bar until two years later. I left my law related job and the office near the top of Atlanta’s tallest skyscraper in February and was living and working in one of Atlanta’s most poverty stricken ghettoes within six months. All of my residential neighbors in February were affluent white suburbanites in May, and all of my neighbors were poor and Black by July. I was working on a promising career in politics in February, and working every day in a hopeless campaign to elect Maynard Jackson to replace Senator Eugene Talmadge by September. I was a promising young moderate in the Winter, and a daily associate of very radical civil rights and Peace Now advocates by September.
So with all these transformations, a casual observer would see a man at a great turning point that had nothing to do with Jews or Judaism. But with more than half a century of hindsight, I can assure you these more visible life changes this year were absolutely necessary necessary changes that later enabled me to make the decision to become as Jewish as I can manage to be.
So I start with a few of the events and new acquaintances of 1968. And these were certainly extremely important to my life outside any consideration of their roles in my later conversion.