Although it was likely written by a Jew during the Second Temple period, there is no evidence that the Book of Judith was ever considered authoritative or a candidate for canonicity by any Jewish group. The Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible does not contain it, nor was it found among the Dead Sea Scrolls or referred to in any early Rabbinic literature. Reasons for its exclusion may include the lateness of its composition, possible Greek origin, open support of the Hasmonean dynasty (to which the early rabbinate was opposed), and perhaps the brash and seductive character of Judith herself.

However, after disappearing from circulation among Jews for over a millennium, references to the Book of Judith, and the figure of Judith herself, resurfaced in the religious literature of crypto-Jews who escaped capitulation by the Caliphate of Córdoba. The renewed interest took the form of “tales of the heroine, liturgical poems, commentaries on the Talmud, and passages in Jewish legal codes.” Although the text itself does not mention Hanukkah, it became customary for a Hebrew midrashic variant of the Judith story to be read on the Shabbat of Hanukkah.

That midrash, whose heroine is portrayed as gorging the enemy on cheese before cutting off his head, may have formed the basis of the Jewish tradition to eat dairy products during Hanukkah. In that respect, Medieval Jewry appears to have viewed Judith as the Hasmonean counterpart to Queen Esther, the heroine of the holiday of Purim. The textual reliability of the Book of Judith was also taken for granted, to the extent that Biblical commentator Nachmanides (Ramban) quoted several passages from a Peshitta (Syriac version) of Judith in support of his rendering of Deuteronomy 21:14.