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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — In 2012 John Pregulman was invited to go to the Illinois Holocaust Museum to work on a project taking pictures of Holocaust Survivors.
“I had never had much contact with survivors, and I just became completely entranced and enthralled with these amazing people,” John said.
John has roots in Chattanooga. He grew up here. His great grandfather started Siskin Steel in 1900.
The trip to Illinois started John on a mission that he’s been on the last five years.
This journey led him to Holocaust survivors here in Chattanooga and then to Memphis. That’s where he met his wife Amy.
“The real part of KAVOD that happened was after we met,” John said.
He and his wife Amy later started a non-profit called KAVOD. The nonprofit’s mission is to help Holocaust Survivors with emergency expenses.
Amy says she nor John had Holocaust Survivors in their families, and the more survivors they met the more they learned about how they are living.
“As in all seniors they get to a certain age as we know and their short term memory kinda fades and their long term memory comes into more focus,” Amy Israel Pregulman said. “These are people who have had traumas that we can’t even fathom let alone even understand as a human being and so some of these traumas are returning as if they just happened.”
John says this mission grew far beyond pictures after a trip to Orlando a few years ago.
“I went to this lady’s home who was ninety-four and took her photos and inevitably the ladies I take pictures of want to feed me afterwards. It’s sort of a grandmother thing, and we went to the refrigerator in the kitchen and there was almost nothing in there,” John said.
The woman told him she couldn’t afford to shop for groceries that week.
“I had to fix my air conditioner and I didn’t have anything left. That made a real impression on me,” John said. “We found that about thirty to thirty-five percent of survivors are living in poverty.”
It hit Amy and John hard that people who went through so much earlier in life couldn’t afford to just buy the things they needed to survive late in life.
“We decided to create KAVOD together which means dignity in Hebrew,” John said.
John and Amy are living in Memphis now. John says they’ve visited thirty cites to help survivors.
This week they’ve been in Chattanooga. They met with people at the Jewish Cultural Center on Tuesday just to educate them on KAVOD’s mission
“There are organizations doing good work and the gap is where we decided would be our niche. So we said okay there’s nothing in place to handle emergency situations, emergency care in the sense that they have an air conditioner break down or their car breaks down or they have a medical emergency,” Amy said.
They get the money to the people who need it within five to seven days.
This whole mission started with a very simple thought.
“I think we both thought, well you know, let’s see what happens,” Amy said. “Even if we can help one survivor even if we can make a difference for one person then that’s enough.”
KAVOD has raised $120,000 so far and they say 100% of that money will go to survivors.
At this point they have helped seven hundred sixty Holocaust Survivors.
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