Amanda Herring and Mo Golden are both experiential Jewish educators from the D.C. area. They met in graduate school, where they discovered their mutual interests and complementary skills. Amanda is based in D.C. and works as an event curator and experiential educator connecting Jewish text and tradition, food and farming justice, and environmental advocacy in order to strengthen the Jewish community and work to repair the world. Mo is based in the Seattle area, where she creates workshops, trainings, visual art, and immersive outdoor activities. Mo is dedicated to using the creative process as a vehicle for personal and social transformation, as well as a tool for deepening people’s connection with their inner wisdom. Together, Mo and Amanda founded Gold Herring, an independent publishing company that creates products that connect people to Jewish wisdom. Their first release was The Jewish Planner in February 2019.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
Mo: I’ve always been an artist, but what that has meant or how it has been expressed has changed throughout my life. As a young adult, I discovered that the arts are most impactful for me when used in relation to one another. When our paintings become dances and our dances evolve into spoken words… the work itself becomes more complex, but more importantly, the parts of ourselves that engaged in generating the work become more integrated with one another. I studied Person-Centered Expressive Arts Therapy in Argentina, which has contributed to all the work I do, in terms of my understanding of the creative process, and also by offering me a foundation of intercultural understanding. The Jewish Planner has been a beautiful outlet for expressing this kind of connection between images, words, the ancient and the modern… and I think it really speaks to the intersections of Amanda and my backgrounds, but also has been a place to hold our differences in a generative way.
Amanda: I have been a Jewish educator my whole life. I was insistent that my parents enroll me in Hebrew school in third grade and took every opportunity to teach my friends and family about Jewish tradition. Working at young adult focused Jewish organizations for 5 years, I witnessed the power of immersive experiences to transform individuals and community. I was approached to be a part of the Hazon Fellowship in Jewish, Outdoor, Food, Farming and Environmental education and felt I’d finally found my calling. My environmental values were informed and strengthened by my Jewish values, and connecting Jewish tradition to local food, sustainability and food Justice only served to add meaning and ground my work in the land and the season. Working with Mo on the planner has been such a joy, combining my passions and also bringing in her artistic vision. I feel so energized by our combined strengths.
What inspired you to open your business?
Mo: We are definitely both entrepreneurial by nature and have each worked independently for years, while also interfacing with institutions. But in this case, I don’t think we were actually trying to start a business! It kinda just happened. We had an idea that was too good to ignore and that idea took on a life of its own.
Amanda: I was looking for this product which didn’t exist in the world, so I turned to Mo, and together we helped it become what we believe many people were looking for. In the process, we needed to build infrastructure around the planner, and luckily, we like working together and we have more good ideas. We are feeling good about continuing and intentionally building a sustainable business that can hold the range of products we plan to release.
What is your specialty?
Amanda: We specialize in interactive, immersive products that connect people with nature, Jewish wisdom and culture, and with themselves on a deeper level. Our work integrates multiple artforms: writing, illustration, etc. to make things that are evocative, inspiring, that simulate the many senses. One of our priorities is to make sure that everything we create is easy to use and accessible to people from all walks of life. We want you to be able to pick it up, love it, and know how to use it. With our learning kits, for example, we don’t want you sitting up the night before using it in your programming, reading and stressing out – it exists to make educators’ lives easier, not harder.
How and where do you work?
Mo: Here in the Sea le area I work out of an indie publishing workshop that has co-working space. The owner is award-winning game designer Ross Cowman, who is also a huge contributor to our work: our graphic designer, layout artist, shipping and fulfillment provider, and publishing consultant. It’s amazing to have this mentorship and range of services right in my office! Amanda works from her home office in DC and we get together, on one of the two coasts, a few times a year. Our Kickstarter video, for example, was filmed in Amanda’s dining room during an in-person work intensive we planned. And our product shots were done in the woods in Olympia, Washington, while we were both on the west coast. Overall, we are totally dependent on technology to keep our team together. On our last meeting, Amanda was calling from a retreat center in North Carolina and I was on a ferry, coming back from an island north of Seattle. Wherever we are, we make it work.
Where do you take your inspiration? Are you pursuing any themes?
Amanda: I am constantly inspired by my teachers in the Jewish environmental world. From Jewish farms and retreat centers to organizations like Wilderness Torah who are taking Jewish tradition back to the land and the connection it once had. I am currently reading any book I can get my hands on on Jewish mindfulness, food, and the outdoors. There is so much wisdom in our ancient texts, rituals, and traditions, I am constantly amazed at how acutely relevant the call to mark me, take moments of reflection and to gather around season changes is, in the modern world.
Mo : I agree with Amanda. The themes and inspiration in our shared work center around the natural world and the Jewish wisdom that teaches us about how to be humans, in right relationship with the earth. Many of us live in cities, all of us live differently than our ancestors. And I feel inspired to create work that is not regressive, but draws from the past as a means of grounding us in our present reality and moving us forward.
What projects are you currently working on?
Mo: We have a ritual game for guided Jewish experiences coming out very soon. It’s called Night Forest, originally designed by me and Ross Cowman. Amanda and I adapted it to work perfectly in Jewish settings. We created a booklet that guides facilitators on how to use it for Havdala, chavruta sharings, Jewish organization board meetings, ice breakers on international trips, and so on. We are super excited about it. I did the illustrations, which are similar to the ones I did for The Jewish Planner, but they are in gold ink on black cards, which are really powerful when you play Night Forest at dusk in the woods by candle light.
Amanda: I’m so excited to launch Night Forest. I’ve used the cards in several sttings so far and I know what a powerful experience it has been. I believe it’ll be a tool for educators in any setting to deepen their work and step into more experiential modes of educating. We’re also already deep into our work for the 5781 planner, we’ve already had such positive feedback, and the demand exceeded all our expectations. I am so excited to launch next year’s planner. It’s been hard to have to tell folks we’re sold out for this year.
Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?
Mo: We just delivered on The Jewish Planner, which was our first product as a team. I’ve gotta say, working on this together has been way more fulfilling than the independent projects I have worked on and it has inspired me to seek out collaboration whenever possible. Finding the right people to work with really makes our individual work more amazing. There is an alchemy that happens in partnership, making an outcome much more powerful than the sum of its parts.
Amanda: The Planner has been incredible, I was lucky enough to be invited to teach about the calendar at a recent Moishe House retreat. We built the calendar together with our bodies serving as the months and seasons, and putting down visual representations for the rainy season, the weeks of mourning, the counting of the Omer… it’s a style of calendar learning I was taught in my JOFFEE training. At the end, there was so much information in front of us, and then I got to give out the planner to every participant. Now they had all this wisdom in a portable format, interactive and able to carry their own important life dates and cycles. That moment was incredible, seeing our project come to life and act as a resource to these young Jewish community builders.
What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?
Mo: We are passionate about shifting Jewish education toward being more embodied and connected to nature. We want our work to make ancient wisdom more relevant and relatable to people in today’s world. Our hope is to keep making a positive impact by creating products that help amazing educators do their work, engage Jews more deeply with their tradition, and welcome in people curious about Judaism in a substantive and beautiful way.
Amanda: Coming into the rhythms and cycles of me in our calendar makes Judaism relevant to my everyday life. That’s what I hope we can bring to others, by connecting Jewish tradition to the land, the seasons, and the food we eat, it comes to life and can inform how we live with meaning and purpose in every moment.
Where can we find your work? Amanda: Our website is GoldHerring.com and you can find us on Instagram at @gold.herring. We have a Facebook page for The Jewish Planner you can check out as well. We love hearing from folks on social media, so if you end up using any of our products, please share images and feedback/insights online.