In graduate school, Amanda Herring learned about the Jewish calendar and its connection to nature. She searched for a planner to guide her through the Jewish year, but couldn’t find anything. So, she decided to create one.
“I’ve always loved planners. Paper planners are just the way that I keep track of my life, even as everything has moved online. I think that having a physical planner just grounds me,” says Herring, a Washington resident. “There was a couple large format monthly calendars … but they’re all based in the Gregorian calendar and then just also listed the Hebrew dates, and they didn’t have any of this wisdom about the seasons or the times of year or why our holidays fall when they do.”
She turned to Mo Golden, a classmate in George Washington University’s Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts program, to help her design the planner. In the summer of 2018, they brainstormed.
“How would it be different [than a regular planner]? How would it be laid out?” Herring says they asked themselves. “How would the experience of using this planner teach people about Jewish time cycles — not just listing the dates, not just giving information, but really the layout, the design, the format of it, change how we’re thinking about time?”
Golden has a background in product design and expressive arts therapy. She says she always wanted a planner that would save her time rather than overcomplicate her life.
“I’ve always used a paper planner, but I’d look for something that was as simple as possible. That really influenced how I conceptualized our format and structure,” says Golden, who grew up in Frederick but now lives in Olympia, Wash. “We had a lot of information that we wanted to put in it and we were trying to create a new structure — which was a design challenge for me because I didn’t want people to have to learn this whole new thing [all at once].”
The monthly layout of the planner is offset and shaded to show both Hebrew and Gregorian dates, since the Hebrew days start and end at sundown. It also starts and ends with each Hebrew month — for example, a monthly layout shows the entire month of Tevet — so the Gregorian months get split up. And because the Hebrew calendar is lunar, it shows the moon cycle.
“We wanted the month breakdowns to be on the Hebrew calendar so we could talk about the themes of the month,” says Herring, “get people really into the main themes by journaling a little bit — relating it to their lives, relating to their goals for that month.”
The weekly layout, instead of being boxed or rectangular like in many planners, looks like a wheel. The inside pie slices show Gregorian dates, but the circle is lined with the offset Hebrew dates.
“It’s in a wheel format because time isn’t linear. With Shabbat ending every week, we have this chance to reflect and to pause and to look back on your week, every single week,” Herring explains.
Every month in the planner starts with teachings relating to that month’s themes and significance. For example, the Kislev page talks about finding light in the darkness — this is the Hebrew month that includes Chanukah. Each month ends with journal questions to help the user reflect.
Each weekly layout includes a quote from that week’s Torah portion. Herring says this can help Jewish educators who want to relate their classes to the Torah portion — but it can also be a spiritual lesson or reminder for anyone using the planner. The planner also includes a seasonal planting guide to help users know what they should plant and eat at what times of year.
Though Herring writes the teachings and Golden creates the illustrations, they collaborate on both. They send each other their drafts and take each other’s ideas and feedback into consideration.
“It’s been a real joy to work together in that way,” Golden says. “One of the great things about having a partnership is you can do different things and you have twice as much energy.”
Herring says this is a passion project for the two of them — they both have other jobs and projects.
“It really felt like this thing that our community was missing,” Golden says, “and I realized how important Jewish time and cycles are to living Jewishly and understanding some of the core wisdom behind our tradition and that a lot of people are not connected to that.”
The first planner covered Hebrew year 5780 (September 2019 – September 2020). A Kickstarter is collecting money for a planner for 5781. Herring says they sold out of the 750 planner-run for 5780.
“It’s still kind of shocking. It’s wild. Like, I wanted it and Mo wanted it. And we were like, ‘Well, let’s see if anybody else does,’” Herring says. “I’m super grateful that people like it.”
Herring and Golden have made some changes, based on customer feedback: extra note pages and a pocket in the back.
“I’m just so excited and I want to hear how [people are] using it,” Herring says. “And, is it meeting their needs? Is it adding something to their life?”