Photography by John Pregulman
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE, AFTER ALL OF THE YEARS OF SUFFERING, TRAUMA AND STRUGGLE, MORE THAN 30% OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS IN THE UNITED STATES ARE LIVING AT OR BELOW POVERTY? IN ADDITION TO THE CHALLENGES OF SENIOR CAREGIVING, THESE PARTICULAR SENIORS ISSUES ARE ENHANCED AND MULTIPLIED WITH THE TRAUMA OF THEIR PAST.
KAVOD, which means dignity, fills the gap for these survivors by offering emergency aid for basic needs. The organization acquired its 501(c)3 classification in the fall of 2016 and has already raised over $25,000 and served survivors in Memphis, Chicago, Chattanooga, New York, New Jersey and Charleston by gifting over $15,000 to date. Its board consists mostly of children of survivors.
KAVOD works with Jewish Family Service and other community service agencies that already serve this group and understand their needs. All gifts are confidential, even to the KAVOD board and staff. Gift cards are given to local grocery stores, such as Kroger or pharmacies such as Target or Walgreens and are used to offset expenses caused by an emergency situation. In addition, Kroger and Target have both agreed to contribute a percentage of the request.
The goal is to expand into other communities to serve more survivors as the need grows greater every day. “We realize this is one small way we can offer this important and purposeful work of preserving memory and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world),” says co-founder John Pregulman, “and we also know that if we can touch one survivor, we are making a difference.”
During the past four years, John has also photographed more than 440 Survivors across the US and in Tokyo. The portraits are given to the survivors and their families. There is no commercial aspect and yet, many give John permission to use their photographs on the KAVOD website. They feel it humanizes the issue although none of the images reflect the Survivors served by KAVOD.
It was the Photography Project that led the couple to creating KAVOD. After a visit with a survivor in her home, he was offered a snack. She opened her refrigerator and all that was there were a half carton of milk, some cheese and a loaf of bread. When John asked where her groceries were, she told him that she had a medical emergency that month and had to use her grocery budget to cover medication. After exploring the issue at length, they realized this was a common problem. There are forms of aid available to survivors, and yet, there was a huge gap when it came to immediate emergency aid without red tape – no options for sudden unexpected expenses. When people are already living 150% below the federal guidelines, one unplanned situation places them in an even more precarious place.
In 2017 there are approximately 100,000 survivors living in the U.S. It is projected that by 2020, there will be approximately 67,000 and over 25,000 will be living below the poverty line according to the Berman Institute-North American Jewish Data Bank.
They studied the landscape of aid and found that no one entity allows for immediate support. The forms and information required is overwhelming, especially for survivors. “We found it unconscionable that these brave souls have to live in fear and discomfort at the end of their lives,” said John.
The non-profit received an operation grant guaranteeing that 100 percent of all donations go directly to the survivors. “They have been through enough, it is the least we can do,” said John.