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The big data way to help

“helping people work with technology is a good way to answer everyone’s needs”


Timna Wharton Kleinman, interviewed November 9, 2023

By Holly Kemph



Timna Wharton Kleinman, 29, is a master’s student in computer science and neuroscience at Hebrew University. She is a native Jerusalemite with American family roots on one side and was in the States when the war began, combining a family celebration with interviews at Princeton and NYU for future research plans. Within days, she booked a seat on one of the special El Al flights operating on Shabbat due to the emergency. She arrived on a Saturday evening and on the following morning came to the Jerusalem Civil Command Center (JCCC). She had heard from friends and family who were already volunteering there that the JCCC was “amazing.” She is now leader of the Data Systems Team.


How does it work?


When she arrived, the data management operations, which were a natural fit for her skill set, were fairly embryonic. She started out in one part of the team and soon was asked to take charge. She describes the data team as the “inner workings” of the JCCC. As she explains: “We help all of the JCCC’s teams operate more efficiently.” Apart from providing basic online management tools, her group enables the various teams to coordinate with one another. 


“We also make it easier for people from outside the JCCC to file requests” for supplies, assistance, or transportation, “or to sign up for volunteering. That way, they can get the best and fastest solution for what they need. We help troubleshoot issues related to IT, WhatsApp, WIFI, and basically any technical issues.”


The information platform for the JCCC is based on spreadsheet software provided by two Israeli high-tech entrepreneurs at Monday.com. The software facilitates the organization of complex data systems, and at the same time is fairly intuitive and user-friendly. Equipped with basic computer literacy, volunteers at the JCCC are able to log each and every request for assistance, and keep track of how each one is being handled. 


Timna enthusiastically notes that the team is now “building a system to streamline everything for the entire JCCC!” The Data Systems Team is truly the mastermind of efficiency at the Hamal.


“We also try to do BI” or business intelligence, “to ask the right questions: Where can we help? How can we help? We carry out analytics on our ability to help others and try to build tools and techniques accordingly.” 


The whole operation is greatly enhanced by Israel’s hi-tech environment. “We are constantly consulting with people in the industry,” Timna points out. The team gets pointers from lots of supportive friends who are in constant touch with each others via social media.


What motivates Timna? 


Timna believes that “helping people to work with technology and to understand it is a good way to get a lot of workflow going and to answer everyone’s needs.” The challenge is huge, given the volume of communication, human resources, and supplies that move in and out of the JCCC. 


There are effective and technically appropriate ways to create order out of chaos and to maximize efficiency, she points out. “Our goal is to help people in Israel as much as we can and to make sure their requests get answered.” It’s important to use the right data systems to get that to happen. 


No less important, she says, is to provide user-friendly resources to the volunteers working at the JCCC, to minimize frustration or misunderstandings. “A good system has to work for the user since everyone is volunteering,” including people without much professional background.


“It’s amazing, heartwarming, and exciting to see all these people coming into the center and doing good.” According to Timna, there are numerous alternatives for people trying to help—what counts in the end isn’t the technology, but the fact that “people are really doing their best to help, which is very moving.” 


She has another point of pride: “Both of my parents are also volunteers here at the JCCC. My dad works here with me in data, and my mom has been doing various things. At first she was with a team working to clean up bomb shelters and make them ready to use, and now she’s helping to coordinate teachers willing to help out where needed, especially among the families evacuated to Jerusalem and in schools that are trying to accommodate their kids.”



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