Growing up, my family wasn’t particularly observant. But my mother made sure that our home glowed with Jewish pride. Those warm Jewish feelings propelled me to start living a Torah-observant lifestyle as an adult and made me want to pass along those values to my kids.

Here are five ways my mother made me love being Jewish.

1. A Sense of Family History

Growing up, my mom made sure that I had a strong sense of my family’s history. My mom would tell me about her Bubbe’s (grandmother’s) journey from a small shtetlMy mom made sure I had a strong sense of my family's history in Poland to London’s Jewish East End. I’m named after her, my mother would explain, and then would tell me about her Bubbe’s smile, her wonderful cooking and her Yiddish sayings. It wasn’t only family tales, either; my mom used to cook my great-grandmother’s helzel (stuffed chicken skin) and bake her apple strudel. She’d sing the same Yiddish lullabies my great-grandmother used to sing and weave Yiddish sayings into our conversations. Her life felt intimately part of mine.

My mom gave the same attention to making sure my brother and I knew the stories of my father’s family, too: how my grandmother and her parents fled Nazi Vienna with coins and a precious diamond sewn into the linings of their coats, how hard they worked once they arrived in Chicago, how kind and warm my great-grandmother was when my mother joined the family. I felt like the latest link in a wonderful family chain, and that sense filled me with pride and a sense of destiny.

In recent years, researchers have found that knowing about our family history is profoundly associated with emotional health and resilience. Emory University psychologists Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke studied children and compiled a list of 20 questions they call the “Do You Know?” list, asking things such as where grandparents grew up and went to school, and where parents and grandparents first met. Children who could answer more questions about their family histories were significantly happier, better adjusted and healthier than those who knew few or no answers to the questions; kids who knew more about their families also coped better with setbacks and difficulties, even as adults.

For me, growing up hearing family stories often helped me feel intimately connected with my relatives and with the Jewish identities that shaped their lives.

2. Jewish Pride

“They’re Jewish, you know” my mom would often say, whenever a notable person was in the news for achieving something wonderful. Growing up, I knew that a Jew invented the vaccine for polio, that Jews discovered vitamins and antibiotics, that more than 20 percent of all Nobel Prizes have been won by Jews, and that Jews were responsible for many inventions—from blue jeans to feature-length movies. I enjoyed feeling that I was part of a people who had contributed so much good to the world.

That feeling of pride extended to Jewish culture as well. My mom would point out the beauty of Jewish prayers, Jewish music and Jewish literature. When we ate Shabbat dinner, she would show me the beautiful prayer ”Aishet Chayil” (“A Woman of Valor”) that’s commonly recited on Friday nights. Written by King Solomon, the prayer poetically describes the ideal Jewish woman: someone who is strong and capable, who nurtures her family and makes sure they are safe and strong.

“Isn’t this so wonderful?” my mom would ask, her eyes aglow. I’d nod in agreement, enjoying the feeling of learning from my mom, and savoring her love and pride in being part of the Jewish people.

3. Kosher(-ish)

We didn’t necessarily follow all the rules ofLiving this way gave us a sense of timeless belonging keeping kosher while I was a kid, but there were a few rules my mom strictly enforced: no pork or shellfish, and no mixing milk and meat. Living this way gave us a sense of timeless belonging; there were some things that, as Jews, we just did. Avoiding non-kosher foods (or at least, obviously non-kosher foods) was one of them. Doing so made us feel that we were part of a clear community with certain norms of behavior.

Growing up with these basic kosher rules also made it easier when I decided to start keeping kosher as an adult. Certain rules, like separating milk and meat products, came naturally, and I never craved obviously non-kosher foods. Switching to kosher felt right. It felt like coming home, sharing the eating and cooking traditions the Jewish people have been following for thousands of years.

4. Jewish Values

One of my mom’s greatest compliments is calling someone a mensch. It means a person of integrity and honor, but in Yiddish, mensch simply means “human being.” This reflects an important Jewish truth, for in Jewish thought, we’re all capable of greatness. Simply being a “human” in full, following the guidelines and expectations that the Divine has set for us, can allow us to fulfill our potential and become the great people we’re capable of being. “What a mensch,” my mom would sometimes say when somebody fulfilled their potential and acted well, and her meaning was clear: People should behave with kindness and honesty; they should go the extra mile to help others.

My mom transmitted Jewish values in another way as well; she grew up speaking Yiddish and loved the rich array of Yiddish songs, especially lullabies. She’d often sing, translating the words. I was struck by how many Yiddish songs were about mothers hoping and praying that their children grow up to learn Torah and follow the Jewish mitzvot. With her songs, my mother showed me a vision of Jewish life imbued with love and tenderness, and with purpose. I grew up feeling that I was part of a chain of Jewish generations that was connected to one another through shared Jewish values and goals.

5. Setting Rules

I was 12 years old when my mother’s mother died, and I’ll never forget the week after her funeral. My mother was determined to sit shiva following all the Jewish rules. I was shocked by how different our life felt that week.

The Jews I knew had dispensed with most JewishFor a full week, she didn’t leave the house ritual, and I’d never seen a traditional shiva house before. My mom covered all our mirrors, she ripped her clothing, she sat on a low chair, and she opened our home to our neighbors and friends all day for a week. My mother didn’t give herself a break; for a full week, she didn’t leave the house and was never alone as a steady stream of visitors came to sit with her. For a year, she didn’t go to parties or play music or buy new clothes.

From my mom, I learned what self-control looks like. I learned that Judaism has beautiful traditions that comfort and aide us when we’re in pain, and also when we experience joy. I saw up close that it’s possible to live a Jewish life. One visitor to our house asked my mother why she was bothering with all the rules of sitting shiva. My mom explained that just as each of her ancestors sat shiva for their relatives, honoring their lives and the values they lived by, so would she never break the chain.

I’m named after one of those women: my mother’s grandmother, Yitta. I thought of all those generations of pious, strong Jewish women, and I wanted to be like them. Years later, I named my daughter Sarah Raisel after my grandmother—the one my mother sat shiva for. I want her to be a part of this chain, too, and remember the timeless Jewish values and passions her grandmothers and great-grandmothers and other relatives lived by.

As parents, we each have a unique task, transmitting our Jewish heritage to the next generation. Making sure that our children love being Jewish isn’t a one-time activity: it’s made up of daily and weekly rituals, over and over, that give our kids a sense of being part of the Jewish community.

One place to start might be for women and girls to light Shabbat candles, and everyone sitting down together as a family for Shabbat dinner. If you don’t usually have Shabbat dinner, make an effort to carve out time to do so. If you do typically celebrate Shabbat meals, try talking to your kids about family history, making sure that they know the names of their ancestors and a little bit about members they’ve never met.

Just as my mother taught us what it felt like to be Jewish with all our senses—food, music, conversation—try brainstorming ways you can highlight more Jewish tradition. Experiment with cooking old family recipes, with listening to Jewish music. Discuss what being Jewish means to you and take time to explain that to your children. Experiment with different ways of bringing Jewish tradition into your own family’s rhythms and schedule. Doing so can help kids gain a sense of Jewish identity and help them grow up loving being Jewish, too.