Judi O

Judi was born and raised in Cherry Hill, NJ, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her father was a psychoanalyst, getting his MD degree under the GI bill, and her mother graduated from Hunter College. Judi received her undergrad degree in psychology from Cornell, and following a short stint at Columbia for graduate school, she spent her career in Human Resources. She now lives with her husband Jeff in Andover MN, where he is a computer consultant (who “grew up on a pig farm in Western Minnesota”), and they are raising two sons: Ryan (15) and Luke (10). Judi took part in the 2014 congregational trip to Israel, an experience she describes as “life-changing.” Luke’s bar mitzvah date has recently been set for 2017.

Tell us where you live.

We live on two and a half acres in Andover, which is about 40 minutes north of Saint Paul. We love the quiet and the woods and wildlife where we are. My husband likes to chop things so there are plenty of trees to chop.

But we’re 40 minutes from anything. Wherever you want to go, it’s 40 minutes.

So we drive a lot, especially to synagogue. We drive 40 minutes each way twice a week, at least. Sunday school and for Hebrew and Confirmation on Wednesdays.

What do you remember about your grandparents?

My father’s father died when he was 10, so I have no memory of that grandfather. And his mother died when I was maybe 4. I remember meeting her once, and she was very quiet, very withdrawn. I remember being very frightened of her because she seemed like a ghost. I don’t know how well she spoke English. She spoke Yiddish and Polish. I just remember her talking about “fiselach cold” … meaning cover up the baby’s feet. The feet were cold. They came from Lodz, in Poland.

But my mother’s parents- I remember them very well. They lived to be 99 and 101. So I got to have a lot of time with them. My mother grew up with no religious traditions, even though her parents were Jewish immigrants. But my grandmother did not practice religion in the home. And my mother thinks it was a reaction to the fact that her mother’s father was a Cantor and was very strict. So I think my grandmother was more interested in assimilating. But my mother made it a point to make sure that we had a religious education.

The Cantor’s name? I don’t remember his first name, but the last name would have been Goldin. That was my grandma’s maiden name. He was Russian. And my grandmother remembers falling asleep at Passover Seders before they had even eaten, because everything was very, very long. But she never really talked about that very much.

So my mother made sure we had a religious, a Reform Jewish upbringing.

Do you have any nicknames?

In college I worked in radio and my nickname was Judi O, because there was an album by The Cars called Candy-O that was popular at the time. I was a DJ and the assistant program director at a commercial radio station mostly staffed by students. Keith Olbermann was two years ahead of me. I knew him through other people. He was the training director when I started at the radio station. Also (ESPN anchor) Mark Schwartz was the same major and same graduation year as me. We were fellow DJs together. I remember he used to not wear a shirt or shoes in the studios in the summer when it was really hot.

Editor’s note: Keith Olbermann began his on air career as a student at WVBR-FM, a commercial radio station that still exists, and is run entirely by Cornell students in Ithaca, N.Y. According to one site “WVBR boasts a distinguished list of media alumnae including NBC News correspondent Kate Snow, ESPN anchor Mark Schwartz, Clear Channel executive Tom Poleman and Kathy Savitt, who last summer joined Yahoo as chief marketing officer.”

It was the most fun I ever had at a job. And I got paid for it.