From Atlanta to Austin, Denver to San Diego, locating the nearest synagogue, mikvah, kosher market or JCC is just a click away, thanks to Rachel Teichman.
Last fall the media-savvy Teichman, 38, launched the website Oogiah (Hebrew for cookie) — “a sweet place to find Jewish spots for kids.” The site, www.oogiah.com, “provides connections for Jewish living in nine U.S. cities for families moving, traveling, or even just for where they live,” Teichman says. San Francisco and the East Bay are included.
The impetus for Oogiah came out of Teichman’s own experiences. A native of San Francisco, she lived in Austin, Texas, for several years before returning to the Bay Area in 2008. “The inspiration was finding things for Jewish families to do while traveling, which turned into helping Jewish families move, which was inspired by our move to Oakland and checking out temples and preschools long distance online, and having to find them all myself,” she explains. Listings in Oogiah include mohels, Jewish preschools, play groups, camps and youth groups, among others.
Growing up in San Francisco, Teichman attended Brandeis Hillel Day School and her family belonged to Congregation Beth Sholom, where she celebrated her bat mitzvah. Years later, married and living in Austin, Teichman worked in public relations and arts management, created her own shopping website, was an online product manager for the Austin American-Statesman, and established herself as a writer and blogger — along with building a Jewish life and network.
Back in the Bay Area, Teichman blogs at on her own site, totsandplans.com — she was voted the No. 3 blogger in the 2012 Circle of Moms’ Top 25 NorCal Moms — and contributes to other child-centered sites, often with a Jewish perspective.
Teichman and her family — husband Jesse, children Nina, 5, and Eli, 21⁄2 — are members of Temple Beth Abraham, where she serves on the board, though not for much longer. Her husband’s job will be taking them to Houston. But Teichman is prepared. She notes that “Houston has a large Jewish population, particularly Orthodox.”
Her move will not interfere with plans to grow Oogiah. Teichman has “a list, and is planning to expand to other cities.” Also, she and the Early Childhood Education Initiative of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation are looking into collaborating on ways to provide more resources “to people who live on the Peninsula and in the North Bay to get more involved in the Jewish community,” she says.
Based on the feedback Teichman says she gets, Oogiah is filling a need. “I do all the online research so other people don’t have to. I’ve already done it for you,” says Teichman. “I know of places that aren’t necessarily found [in random searches] online.” The advantage of the interactivity of the Internet, she says, is that visitors have let her know of places she has missed. And so the sense of community — as well as the resources — continues to grow.
For example, she describes the rabbi’s wife from Tennessee (not yet covered by Oogiah) who has contacted her about blogging on the site. Teichman adds that local Jewish singer Alison Faith Levy (of the popular Bay Area band The Sippy Cups) “will be blogging” along with guest bloggers.
Rachel Olsen recently moved from the Bay Area to Carlsbad, in San Diego County, with her husband and two young daughters. Before moving, she says, “I used Oogiah to research San Diego synagogues. The site is very easy to use. … It has a clean, easy to search layout with more information if you want to dig deeper. I actually used it to see which areas of San Diego were more populated with Jewish communities since we … wanted to make an informed decision about where to settle.”
Through Oogiah, Teichman combines her passion, skills and commitment to Judaism and her family in her effort to encourage and assist others in living a Jewish life — no matter where they are. And even she is learning a lot about Jewish communities in the U.S.
As she says, “I was surprised how many [kosher] restaurants there are in Las Vegas.” Who knew?