I want my children to be strong. I want them to know they have a place in the world. I want them to know where they come from and have pride.

I remember once when my daughter was 2 years old, I took her shoe shopping. It must have been around January because the salesman asked her what she got for Christmas. I remember when I was a child and was asked that question, I would simply rattle off my Hanukkah presents. But not my daughter. She looked right at him and said very clearly, “I’m Jewish. I have Hanukkah.” The salesman smiled and said, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed. Did you have a good Hanukkah?” And then my daughter proceeded to rattle off her Hanukkah presents. Now, because of my daughter, when I am invariably asked around the holiday time by a well-meaning stranger, “Ready for Christmas?” I reply, “Actually, we celebrate Hanukkah and it was earlier this month.”

What’s my point? That we should raise children who are proud to be Jewish. Look, if you are visiting this site and reading this column, you’re probably interested in creating a Jewish home. That doesn’t mean we do everything. It means finding what feels comfortable and what works for you. Only you can decide that.

Mom's Role

As the moms, we usually set the tone for the household. And incorporating Jewish traditions does not have to be tremendously time-consuming. It takes 20 minutes to make homemade challah dough. And, really, nothing sets the tone of the house faster than the smell of challah baking. 

And the things that do take time are worth it. For example, every year I pack up my everyday plates, utensils and cookware before Passover and put out special kosher-for-Passover plates and utensils and cookware. I dread it every year and wonder how I’m going to find the time. But I do. And when I’m finished, the kitchen is super clean (including the cabinets) and organized and it feels like yontif (the Yiddish word for holiday). My home has been transformed for Passover and I do it because I am a Jewish mother and this is a Jewish home. 

Kids Like It, Too

I asked my children what they thought about us having Shabbat dinner or making Purim costumes or writing our own hagaddah for Passover or baking round challah. My 6-year-old said, “It’s fun, ‘cause it’s things Mommy does with us.” 

I never thought about this reason. I thought I do these things to teach my children about Judaism. I thought I do these things so that they will want to have Jewish homes. What I forgot about was the most important thing of all—these are things I am not only doing for my children, I am doing them with my children. I am not only giving them special memories; together, we are creating special moments. And isn’t that what we want for our families?

Meredith Jacobs

Meredith Jacobs is author of The Modern Jewish Mom's Guide to Shabbat and Just Between Us: a no-stress, no-rules journal for girls and their moms that she co-authored with her daughter, Sofie. She is co-founder and editor of ModernJewishMom.com.