December 7, 2019

Why Aren’t We Teaching Our Girls About Judith, the Badass Of Hanukkah?

I’m thrilled that today we have some modern Jewish female heroes to celebrate, namely our judicial celebrity extraordinaire Ruth Bader Ginsburg (and long may she reign in good health!). Looking back at Jewish history and the stories of our ancestors it can be tough to find too many other women that receive much championing (though Esther and Miriam do spring to mind). From a feminist or even a female perspective, Jewish history as I was taught it can be a bit dry. I have a feeling though that if my Hebrew school teacher had told me about Judith, the badass b–ch of Hanukkah, I’d have paid a lot more attention in class. 

It’s more than time our Jewish girls (and boys!) were raised with these stories at the forefront. We all know about Judah and his role in the story of Hanukkah, we all know about the miracle of the oil…but who was taught about Judith and how SHE beheaded an Assyrian general to begin a revolt that would secure a Jewish victory? Where is my #TeamJudith ugly Hanukkah sweater? 

Although Judith’s story isn’t part of the Book of Maccabees, her story as written in a midrash is traditionally read during the Shabbat that falls during Hanukkah. In the full Book of Judith we’re told that this incredibly beautiful and captivating widow was frustrated with the lack of faith among the Jewish people that God would ensure a victory over the Assyrian conquerors. Taking matters into her own hands (literally), she infiltrates the enemy camp and the private tent of General Holofernes. Then she feeds him a ton of cheese and wine (classic) until he’s drunk and then decapitates him with a sword. With the enemy army left in disarray she encourages the Israelites to attack and they emerge victorious.

Historically her story likely took place more than a hundred years before Judah and the Maccabeats defeated the Assyrians again but one has to wonder…can’t we celebrate both? Both center around an overlapping time of Assyrian rule and the brave military feats it took to overthrow these invaders of Israel. Some historians believe Jewish people used to embrace Judith as part of the Hanukkah story much more so than we do today and that she is the reason it’s still customary to serve salty cheesy foods during the holiday. 

So this Hanukkah I’m hosting a “Wine and Cheese for Judith” night. We’ll eat a ton of cheese and drink enough wine until we can’t distinguish Judah from Judith! Because after all, why should we? And maybe talk about who we might have liked to behead in history…


Marion Haberman is a writer and content creator for her YouTube/MyJewishMommyLifechannel and Instagram @MyJewishMommyLife page where she shares her experience living a meaning-FULL Jewish family life. Haberman is currently writing a book on Judaism and pregnancy titled ‘Expecting Jewish!’ to be released Winter 2019. She is also a professional social media consultant and web and television writer for Discovery Channel, NOAA and NatGeoand has an MBA from Georgetown University.