Intro

  • Invite students to introduce themselves and ask them to share a time they acted with courage in their own lives. Tell them the action can be small or large.
  • Explain that Judith’s story is apocryphal and lacks a single foundational Jewish text. You can simply read the following as a streamlined way of conveying this information to students:

Judith is an apocryphal character, which means she is not included in the Jewish Bible. In fact, there is no evidence the rabbis even considered her story for inclusion, and the oldest version of the story we have is in Greek, not Hebrew.

Because of these uncertain origins, Judith is on the fringes of Jewish text - sometimes almost forgotten, in other eras brought back into focus. She is referred to in some medieval Jewish texts, but is not considered a central character.

In addition, there are many versions of Judith’s story, often with conflicting details. For example, in the Catholic version she lives in the fictional town of Bethulia, while in medieval Jewish versions, she lives in Jerusalem.

Finally, the Book of Judith is non-historical; the story combines real and imagined kings, generals and nationalities to create a fictional setting.

Despite her story’s unclear origins and complicated relationship to world history, over the centuries Judith has been invited into the spotlight of Jewish life. Much of this celebration has come through women in diverse Jewish communities who honored Judith through ritual, food, and celebration, usually around the holiday of Chanukah. Judith has also been imagined over and over in religious and secular art, music, dance and film.

When we discuss Judith’s story and create art about her, we join our foremothers and forefathers in bringing Judith back into the center of Jewish study.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Intro." (Viewed on September 15, 2019) <https://jwa.org/node/22754>.

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