Keeping up with our Jewish lives is hard enough when we are dealing with job stress, making plans with friends, and the general hustle and bustle of daily secular life. For many of us, trying to keep up with our High Holiday and Shabbat routines can feel like more of a chore than the joy it should be.
Last year, Amanda Herring and Mo Golden launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the capital to print The Jewish Planner. This year, they are taking it up a notch with more room for reflecting and I personally cannot express how deeply excited I am to get my 5781 planner!
Alex: What differences will there be in this year’s planner compared to last year’s?
Amanda: First, we learned so much through the process of starting the business last year – about working with printers and graphic designers, shipping, and managing workflow so the behind the scenes process is smoother this year. It’s wonderful to have all that experience coming into this year. Second, due to user feedback, we’re adding extra blank note pages and a back pocket, so those are really great feature ideas we got directly from our supporters.
Mo: There was the temptation to make a ton of changes, just because we have so many creative ideas. But we decided to channel that energy into new products and to keep the basic structure of the planner the same because people really like it. We’ve built upon what was successful last year, while still making changes based on feedback. We’ll see what works well from last year and this year, and then be able to make more significant changes as needed for the third year. Most of the illustrations are new too, which is fun.
One way we’ve added depth to the planner without modifying the product itself is with the new tea subscription we’re launching along with this year’s Kickstarter.
A lot of us don’t know this, but there are body parts, senses –smell, sight, etc. – and healing properties associated with each month of the Hebrew year. So, we are creating an herbal blend that you’ll receive on the new moon each month during the year 5781, along with a teaching and guide for facilitating a meaningful experience at any gathering. This builds off of the planner and offers a way to embody the learning that comes from using the planner, but is also something people can happily enjoy without The Jewish Planner, as a stand-alone subscription.
Alex: What are some creative ways you’ve heard of people using the planner?
Mo: Quite a few users have shared with us on Instagram that they color in the monthly and weekly illustrations, which I absolutely love. We went back and forth about whether they should be simple line drawings or have more color, and I think the simplicity that we landed on has been inspiring to other people’s creativity.
Also, the weekly wheel is controversial – in a good way! Everyone has something different to say about how they use it. A lot of people use the wheel to bullet point key tasks and appointments through each day, but not everyone. Some folks are actually using each day section in the wheel to write down their dreams from the night before. Others use it as a space for past reflections, as they look back on the week. One person told us she uses it for her Daf Yomi practice, which is really cool.
Overall, the planner has attracted a wide range of people and met more diverse needs than we initially expected. It has become a teaching tool for educators, especially the digital version, which can be printed out for sessions on a specific month or theme. And the planner has also made its way into conversion classes because it lays out a pretty complex aspect of our tradition in an elegant, simple, and engaging way that invites the user to learn about the Hebrew calendar in bite-size pieces, through the process of living their life and reflecting on the changing seasons.
Alex: What have been the biggest challenges in creating this planner in Year 1 and now in Year 2?
Amanda: The challenge was initially creating something totally new! We changed up the traditional linear planner layout and visually aligned the Hebrew and Gregorian dates with the offset at sundown. All these things were fun design puzzles, and we then had to communicate our solutions to the graphic designer and find ways to include all the information without looking cluttered or confusing.
This year, the challenge is communicating the continued need for Kickstarter support and explaining why we aren’t rich off of one round of sales, but are actually still very young as a business. We know people loved the planner last year, so we’re hoping for return backers. We had so many people asking for planners after they sold out, we’d love to order more this year, it just depends on the response.
Alex: How did you decide what to include in the Jewish Planner?
Mo: We were really inspired by the Bullet Journal method, which has a structure that goes from broad to specific. That way of working makes sense, which is why our planner starts with the large Shmita cycle, then seasons, months, weeks… From there, we decided that we needed an overview teaching of the aspects people wouldn’t be familiar with and that are important to know in order to really interact with the calendar. So, there’s a monthly teaching where we introduce the themes, as well as journaling prompts where the monthly teaching becomes alive and personally relevant to the user.
Then, after that process, the month overview that comes next– which looks like a grid and could feel overwhelming on its own – makes sense and feels approachable. Most of our decisions were about structure, context, order. The content piece followed from there, both for the writing and the illustrations. We created images that embodied the themes of each month, and for the weeks, we played off of the Torah portions, the seasonal shifts, holidays, and other themes for the week. That took a lot of thought, but it was a fun process.
Alex: What is Gold Herring LLC and how did that launch?
Mo: Gold Herring is our new publishing company! We create immersive products that deepen your connection to Jewish wisdom and culture. We created The Jewish Planner under Gold Herring, as well as the new tea subscription we’re currently launching. It’s a nice container for all the goodies we are making, and may also grow into a publisher for other creators’ work as well.
Alex: What are your dreams for the future of this planner and Gold Herring?
Amanda: We have so many ideas for immersive and experiential products that will help users connect to Jewish wisdom and teachings. We want to make Jewish educators’ lives easier, we don’t all need to reinvent the wheel. There are great resources out there that we can all use and reuse year after year. We’re planning to release our calendar’s teaching curriculum introducing the Hebrew calendar as a ready-made kit that teachers can use in the classroom or on retreat.
We’re also dreaming of a beautiful Omer counter that can be hung up in your home, office, or classroom to help you move through the seven weeks of the Omer thoughtfully and with guidance. We have tons of other ideas of activities and games that any Jewish professional can add to their repertoire of effective programming that works with all age groups, settings, and levels of Jewish knowledge.
Mo: As the planner grows, we hope that it creates more awareness of the Hebrew calendar as a doorway into embodying Jewish tradition and connecting with natural cycles. We have been so excited by the partnerships we’ve already made with organizations. We look forward to The Jewish Planner and the kits and educational tools we’re creating being a part of Jewish organizations’ programming.
Alex: What audiences do you envision using the planner?
Amanda: We know the planner is being used by Hillel professionals, Moishe House residents and retreat facilitators, Jewish day school teachers, and folks from all walks of life who want to come into the rhythms of the lunar-solar calendar. I have non-Jewish friends who like the lunar month breakdown and journal prompts as reminders to be attuned to the changing seasons and how they affect our mood, productivity, and energy.
The planner is for anyone, unless your current Google calendar or paper planner is already doing what you need… and then you don’t need us! But if you wish your planner could help you feel more grounded, connected to the cyclical rhythms of Jewish time, then try out The Jewish Planner and let us know what you think.
Alex: How do I get one?
Amanda: Right now we’re totally sold out of 5780, so the only way to ensure you’ll get your hands on a copy of the 5781 planner (coming out this August) is to back the Kickstarter and then share it with as many people as you can!
Mo: We do have digital pdfs available at GoldHerring.com for 5780, but the 5781 physical copy and our new tea subscription are being crowdfunded now.
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