In the tradition of Ashkenazi Jews, we name our children after the deceased. My husband had taken me to see a Broadway show starring Judd Hirsch before our firstborn was even a twinkle in his eye. We liked the show; we loved the name of the lead actor. In reaction, I suggested, “If we ever have a son, and need a name that starts with a J, we should name him Judd.” I thought it was the greatest name I had ever heard.
My dear uncle Jerome (two of his three children-Norman and Shari-were in last week’s blog) suddenly died two-and-a-half years before I gave birth to our first child. When I delivered a boy, we knew immediately that we would give him that “J” name we loved. It would be in memory of the uncle we adored. Our baby’s English name would be Judd for “Jerome” and his Hebrew name would be the actual name of my uncle, Yehudah.
Before signing the official papers with his name, my husband and I played a game I had created. Of course, we had no way of knowing that our baby would grow up to be a lawyer and work in an office but I would make believe I was calling him at work to see how the name sounded. I would say to the person who answered (my husband played that part), “May I please speak with Judd, this is…).” As I was preparing to use a particular girl’s name or boy’s name with each of our three children, I would fill in the potential names of the siblings and say that it was “so and so” calling for them.
My concern that I had chosen the best name for our newborn lingered until Judd was a toddler. We were in a restaurant in California and there was a man sitting at the table next to us and addressing his grown son, Judd! I couldn’t help but to stop at the table on our way out and ask the young man how he liked growing up with the name Judd. His reply, “It was the best thing my parents could have done for me.”
That serendipitous meeting totally solidified our satisfaction with the name we had chosen. When I started my genealogy research the Hanukkah after Judd was born by giving our parents the book, “Reflections: A Jewish Grandparents’ Gift of Memories,” we saw how much they never knew or had forgotten. One important fact we learned was that Uncle Jerome George or Yehudah Gershon, whom Judd was named for, himself was named after his grandfather, my great-grandfather, Yehudah Hersh. While we took a middle name for our son in memory of my father-in-law’s sister Edith and named him Yehudah Chaim or Judd Eban, I still owe Judd Hirsch a shout-out.