86-year-old woman crowned 'Miss Holocaust Survivor' in Israeli pageant

86-year-old great-grandmother is crowned ‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’ in Israeli beauty pageant held to honor women who ‘vanquished’ the horrors of the Nazi genocide

  • Ten contestants – ranging in age from 79 to 90 – trod the catwalk at a museum in the city of Haifa, their hair styled, make-up applied and dressed to the nines with sashes adorning their gowns
  • Organizers of the contest say it bestows glamour and respect on a dwindling number of Jewish women whose youth was stolen during World War II but who went on to build new lives in Israel
  • The pageant was organized by a Haifa based charity called Yad Ezer l’Haver, which provides care and lodging for Holocaust survivors 
  • ‘It is not a competition of outward beauty, but one in which each competitor says, “I managed to survive and raise a family, I feel that I vanquished the Nazis and I’m alive and kicking,”‘ founder Shimon Sabag said 
  • Tuesday’s winner, Salina Steinfeld, was born in Romania, where she survived Nazi attacks before moving to Israel in 1948 

An 86-year-old great-grandmother was crowned ‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’ today during an annual Israeli beauty pageant held to honor women who endured the horrors of the Nazi genocide.

Ten contestants – ranging in age from 79 to 90 – trod the catwalk at the Friends of Zion Museum of in the city of Haifa, their hair styled, makeup applied, and dressed to the nines with dazzling gowns and sashes.

The contest has been going on annually since 2009 – except last year, when it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Organizers say it bestows glamour and respect on a dwindling number of Jewish women whose youth was stolen from them during World War II, but who went on to build new lives in Israel. 

Tuesday’s winner, Salina Steinfeld, was born in Romania, where she survived Nazi attacks before moving to Israel in 1948, organizers said. 

An 86-year-old great-grandmother was crowned ‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’ on Tuesday, November 16, during an annual Israeli beauty pageant designed to honor women who endured the horrors of the Nazi genocide 

10 contestants – ranging in age from 79 to 90 – trod the catwalk at the Friends of Zion Museum in the city of Haifa, their hair styled, make-up applied, and dressed to the nines with dazzling gowns and sashes

The contest has been going on every year since 2009 – except last year, when it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic 

Some commentators worried that the event cheapens the memory of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis. Contestant Rachel Feingold is photographed getting her makeup done before the show

Organizers of the contest, however, say it bestows glamour and respect on a dwindling number of Jewish women whose youth was stolen during World War II. Contestant Leah Pessi is photographed getting her makeup done before the show

Rivka Papo’s (pictured) granddaughter, Dana, said the contestants ‘deserve that everyone see how much beauty there is in these women who went through such horror.’ She added: ‘Thanks to them, we have a future and we have a country’

‘After what I went through in the Holocaust, I never dreamed that I could get to where I am, with a big family – two kids, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren,’ said contestant Kuka Palmon, who survived a pogrom in her native Romania.

‘And yet here I am, at this great age, 87. It’s a godly thing, it is indescribable.’ 

Other contestants included a woman born in Yugoslavia who survived the Rab concentration camp in modern-day Croatia.

The 10 finalists were whittled down from 400 entrants in total. Around 2,000 people attended the event to show their support.

Some commentators worried that the event would cheapen the memory of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis.

But Dana Papo, whose grandmother Rivka Papo competed on Tuesday, disputed that point of view. She argued that the contestants ‘deserve that everyone see how much beauty there is in these women who went through such horror.’

She added: ‘We will show them how much we love and appreciate them. Thanks to them, we have a future and we have a country.’

For the first time in the pageant’s history, it was broadcasted live on the website Vimeo, and viewers were able to rate each of the women as they walked the catwalk and gave a short speech. 

Before the event, Israel’s official government press office said ‘the public in Israel and around the world will be able to take part in selecting the beauty queen to be crowned Miss Holocaust Survivor.’ 

The pageant was organized by a Haifa based charity called Yad Ezer l’Haver, which provides care and lodging for Holocaust survivors.

And according to their founder and CEO, Shimon Sabag, the idea for the event came to him after he heard a survivor named Shoshana Kolmer speak to psychiatrist Isabella Greenberg. 

For the first time in the pageant’s history, it was broadcasted live on the website Vimeo, and viewers were able to rate each of the women as they walked the catwalk and gave a short speech

The contestants are photographed are they prepare to go on stage during the annual Holocaust survivors’ beauty pageant

The pageant was organized by a Haifa based charity called Yad Ezer l’Haver, which provides care and lodging for Holocaust survivors

‘It is not a competition of outward beauty, but one in which each competitor says, “I managed to survive and raise a family, I feel that I vanquished the Nazis and I’m alive and kicking.” It gives them a drive for life,’ founder and CEO, Shimon Sabag said

The idea for the competition came to him after a survivor told him she was unable to compete in her school’s beauty pageant because Nazis invaded her town in Hungary and took her to Auschwitz

He said that although it ‘seemed odd’ to have women in the 80s and 90s dress up, he ‘came to realize that they could do it no less than a girl of 18.’ Photographed is 90-year-old Holocaust survivor and participant Chana Harel before the event

Shoshana said she was unable to compete in her school’s beauty pageant because Nazis invaded her town in Hungary and took her to Auschwitz – something that devastated her.

‘She felt that her childhood stopped at that moment,’ he recalled during an interview with Daily Beast.

He explained that Isabella then suggested that getting dolled up could give the survivors’ a boost, and the idea for the pageant was born.

‘Initially I had trouble swallowing it. It seemed odd, women in their 80s and 90s, but I came to realize that they could do it no less than a girl of 18,’ he added.

‘It is not a competition of outward beauty, but one in which each competitor says “I was in Lodz, I managed to survive and raise a family, I volunteer, I feel that I vanquished the Nazis and I’m alive and kicking.” It gives them a drive for life.’

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