What can we do to help ensure that our children will love being Jewish?

Here are five strategies to help strengthen our kids’ love of Judaism, backed up by modern research and over 3,000 years of Jewish wisdom.

1. Passover Seder – Knowing our Family History and What We Stand For

The Hebrew word “haggadah,” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out, is closely related to another Hebrew root that means ‘bind,’ ‘join,’ ‘connect.’ By reciting the Haggadah, Jews give their children a sense of connectedness to Jews throughout the world and to the Jewish people through time.

The Passover Seder brings to life our nations story and sends the powerful message about what we as a family – and a people – value, what is worth remembering and passing along. According to recent studies, taking the time to explain to our children where they come from communicates that their family history is important, and gives our kids a perspective and sense of connection that’s crucial for their emotional well-being.

Professors at Emory University conducted a landmark study called “Do You Know?” which asked children how much they knew about events that had shaped their family through the generations. The results were shocking. Children who knew more about their family’s history – and who knew what stories and memories their relatives felt was worth passing down – scored higher on virtually every marker of mental health. In fact, this “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the single best predictor of kids’ happiness and emotional well-being.

This Passover, view the Seder as a precious opportunity to play your own game of “Do You Know?”: a time to explain to your children what is important in our own history and the amazing events that have brought us to this moment.

2. Jewish Summer Camp

Recent research shows that attending Jewish summer camp gives kids a huge boost of Jewish engagement, no matter what other Jewish experiences children have, and that the results last into adulthood.

Sociologist Steven M. Cohen found in a major 2011 study that American Jews who attended Jewish summer camp were 55% more likely to report having an emotional attachment to Israel than Jewish children from similar religious backgrounds who did not attend Jewish camp. They were 45% more likely to attend synagogue at least once a month than other kids from a similar background, 37% more likely to light Shabbat candles, 30% more likely to donate to Jewish federations, 26% more likely to join a synagogue, and 10% more likely to marry another Jew.

In the United States, fewer than 10% of Jewish families report choosing a Jewish summer camp for their children. Making the choice this summer to break with tradition and opt for a Jewish camp is one way to give our kids a fun experience that can profoundly boost their love for Judaism and Israel.

3. Feeling Connected through Giving

Studies show that American Jews give to charity more than other ethnic groups – though few of these donations are to Jewish causes. Making a decision to include Jewish-themed charities in our patterns of giving can have profound effects not only aiding others, but fostering Jewish identification as well.

In a series of groundbreaking studies, researchers at Harvard Business School, the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University in Canada studied the effects of donating to charity. In a major 2008 paper “Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness” the researchers found just that: giving to charity – even at amounts of as little as $5 – gave people’s sense of happiness a profound boost. Researchers also discovered that not all charity is equal; giving to a cause that we understand and care about – particularly when we know something about the person we are helping – gives us a stronger sense of joy and fosters a feeling of being part of a community. This giving doesn’t have to be monetary; helping, sharing, donating, cooperating, and volunteering all foster a sense of connection and caring about others.

4. Lead by Example

The best way to foster a love of Judaism in our kids is to display that love yourself.

Child psychologist and author Wendy Mogul writes about “dry-cleaning” Hebrew Schools where parents drop off their kids for a few hours to have them enriched and educated with their Jewish heritage, with little input from home. (Unsurprisingly, she notes, “dry-cleaning” educational experiences tend to be less impactful than experiences where parents as well as kids are engaged.)

Nissan, the month of Passover, consider ramping up your own engagements with Jewish life. Make a resolution to sign up for a class, read a Jewish book, start doing an additional Jewish observance, or to learn something new. If you don’t already light Shabbat candles, consider doing it this week. Experiment with incorporating Shabbat dinner into your week. Spend some time thinking of ways you can work to push yourself and grow. Your kids will notice – and ultimately take your example to heart.

5. Giving Kids a Jewish Education

One of the greatest indicators of whether kids will have a strong connection to Judaism is attending Jewish elementary and high schools. According to a 2007 Brandeis University study about Jewish college students:

“…day school students stand out in their strong engagement with Judaism. They participate in Jewish activities, worship services, and Jewish studies courses in much higher percentages than their peers from public and private school backgrounds. They self-report greater knowledge of Israel, and they stay connected to Judaism and other Jews on campus.”

Sending kids to Jewish schools can be the most profound way we can encourage them to love Judaism and to connect to the wider Jewish community.