Denver couple John and Amy Israel Pregulman have made it their mission to photograph as many Holocaust survivors as possible, before it’s too late. This project began in 2015 when John was commissioned to take pictures of survivors for an exhibit at a Holocaust museum in Illinois. After his work there was done, he felt like he needed to continue.
Not long after he started his independent project, John says he made a disturbing discovery: poverty. Until then, they were unaware that 35,000 U.S. Holocaust survivors — about a third — live below the poverty line. That’s when they set up their not-for-profit, KAVOD, which gives emergency aid to Holocaust survivors in need. The money usually comes in the form of gift cards, and covers needs like food and medicine, and, recently, hurricane relief aid. KAVOD, the Hebrew word for “dignity,” helps cut through the red tape of getting financial aid, John says. The Pregulmans work through organizations like Jewish Family Service to help survivors.
John and Amy will be in Boulder on Wednesday, February 20 to take photographs of Holocaust survivors as part of their Photography Legacy Project of Survivors. There’s no gallery, no exhibition, and no fanfare with the photos John takes. He simply gives the photos to the survivors. John says he sees a transformation in the survivors from before they sit for a photo session to the moment they receive their pictures. “It really gives them a sense of dignity, worth, and happiness to know that people are going to remember them. Their biggest fear is that they’re going to be forgotten.” Each survivor also gets a hand-written personal note from John along with his or her photos, something Amy says helps to create a connection.
The photos will be taken at the Boulder JCC. If someone cannot get to the JCC, JFS will arrange for volunteers to pick people up or have photos taken in seniors’ homes. If you would like more information or know someone who would like to be photographed for this project, please contact Jodi Ansell at Boulder JFS at 303.415.1025.