Rivkah Bloom (nee Spangenthal) is on a mission. She wants every Jewish woman to have the ability to keep taharas hamishpacha with comfort and ease. She created the famed MikvahCalendar.com to de-complicate taharas hamishpacha, and recently co-founded MikvahRSVP, a reservation and internal management system for mikvaos.
I spoke to Bloom to learn more about her journey and to better understand what went into building these platforms.
For as long as Bloom can remember, she’s been on two simultaneous paths – in math and in Judaism. MikvahCalendar.com and MikvahRSVP allowed her to merge them.
Bloom’s love for math began as a young girl attending a college prep school in North Carolina. Determined to ensure their daughter knew what it meant to be Jewish, Bloom’s parents also sent her to a Chabad overnight camp. She returned summer after summer, innately drawn to traditional Judaism. Bloom’s parents were supportive of the changes in her life, and eventually her family became frum.
Bloom left home at the age of 14 to attend a Jewish school in Pittsburg. Throughout her yeshiva and seminary years, Bloom’s parents and teachers encouraged her to continue studying math and science at advanced levels. After seminary, she went to MIT where she graduated with a Bachelors and Masters in computer science.
One of Bloom’s first guests as a newlywed was a woman who explained that, although she would love to keep taharas hamisphacha, the calculations confused her, and ultimately prevented her from keeping the mitzvah properly. The woman wished a calculator she could use to enter her dates and be told what to do existed on the market.
A germ formed in Bloom’s mind. With her skills and expertise, she could easily create a platform to help this woman and many others like her.
And MikvahCalendar.com Was Born
The platform took four years to develop, with its earliest version launching in 2009. Today MikvahCalendar.com comes in the form of an app and website and is available in five languages (English, Hebrew, French, Spanish and Russian).
It’s simple to use. There are only two instructions: 1) Enter the start of flow and 2) Enter the hefsek tahara.
Users can customize the platform according to their shita, which ranges from Ashkenaz, Modern Orthodox, Litvish, Sfarad, Chabad, Bucharian, Ovadia Yosef, and more. The Satmar shita was recently added to the platform in conjunction with Satmar rabbonim. Users are texted or emailed reminders according to their chosen shita. They can also send questions with their entire history and projected dates to a rav or kallah teacher of their choice using the platform.
Bloom admits it was initially challenging to get rabbonim to endorse the concept. While reaching out to the author’s books on niddah, she emailed Rabbi Fishel Jacobs. His reply was that building a program to calculate niddah dates is one of his dreams, and if we can use technology to put man on the moon, we can and should program a correct mikvah date calculator. His response propelled Bloom to throw herself into the project.
Rabbonim became more supportive of the idea as its accuracy was proven. Bloom ensured the platform was thoroughly tested to ensure its correctness by yoetzos, rebbetzins, rabbonim and members of the computer science community. The reception from users has been overwhelmingly positive.
MikvahCalendar.com recently introduced a Cycle of Kindness initiative to ensure every couple can keep taharas hamishpacha b’hiddur with dignity.
After an initial two-month free trial, users are required to pay a yearly fee of $26 (US). Grants allow users to purchase membership for those who can’t afford it, in the z’chus of a request. The process to receive a grant is discreet. The funds go into a grant box. Anyone who needs a grant simply clicks on the option to use said grant, and voila!
“Everyone should be able to use MikvahCalendar.com regardless of their financial situation. This Cycle of Kindness allows us to support one another in this crucial mitzvah,” Bloom explains.
At the request of kallah and chosson teachers, MikvahCalendar.com also created graphic slides to be used as a compendium when teaching or learning how to calculate the important dates and times of mikvah observance. These slides are a step-by-step guide for each type of calculation.
MikvahCalendar.com also added ‘manual mode’ enabling users on birth control to customize the platform to keep the onos according to the specific instructions of their rav.
After the administration of a Miami mikvah learned that women were using personal pools in lieu of the mikvah, they reached out to Bloom to help create a system to enhance the immersion experience. Bloom teamed up with Spotlight Design, who built the intuitive and automated management system for “The Mikvah,” a newly constructed 28-room, four-bor, mikvah in Crown Heights.
The new system, called MikvahRSVP, is both a reservation and internal management system, with an emphasis on privacy, efficiency, cleanliness, and of course, creating a pleasant experience for mikvah-going women.
It’s easy to use. Women can make – or cancel – Mikvah reservations in less than 30 seconds on the website or web app, as well as donate or purchase bedika cloths. To protect mikvah users’ privacy, the print-out of the reservation list only shows the last four digits of each woman’s phone number.
Upon arrival at the mikvah, women are shown to rooms with integrated LED signage. In-room tablets offer a selection of music, a preparation checklist, a timer, and of course the ability to let the attendant know when they are ready. For efficiency purposes, the cleaners are alerted when rooms are vacant, enabling them to clean before the next guest.
Since the Miami mikvah incorporated MikvahRSVP, Bloom says, her team has been fielding calls from mikvaos around the world. A brand new mikvah in Jerusalem with over 35 prep rooms is in the midst of implementing the system, among others. The MikvahRSVP platform is available in a few tiers, including reservation only, basic integration and fully automated, to suit the needs of small outpost mikvaos as well as medium and large community mikvaos.