JERUSALEM – Ten survivors of the Nazi genocide have taken part in the first global competition to nominate the winner of the Miss Holocaust Survivor Beauty Pageant.
The 12 finalists, all in their 70s, 80s and 90s, were cut down from 400 participants. The participants – who were born all over Europe from France to Romania – went on the runway and gave short speeches on Tuesday in front of a 2,000-strong audience in Jerusalem and a live online broadcast. In the end, Selena Steinfeld, 86, from Haifa was declared the winner.
In the days leading up to Tuesday’s competition, Israel’s official government press office circulated a statement that for the first time “the public in Israel and around the world will be able to participate in the selection of the beauty queen to be crowned as Miss Holocaust Survivor.”
Online voters were asked to rate each of the women out of ten with a clickable yellow star.
The event was organized by Yad Ezer l’Haver, a Haifa-based charity that provides care and accommodation to Holocaust survivors. It is funded by evangelical Trump superfan Mike Evans, whose Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem hosted the gala and who presented the award to the winner.
Evans is best known for his fanatical support for former President Donald Trump and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last June, he warned that Israel would likely lose support from US evangelicals if it allowed “rabid dogs” Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid – now the country’s prime minister and foreign minister – to “crucify” Netanyahu.
The Miss Holocaust Survivor event has been running locally to and from since 2009, according to Shimon Sabag, founder and CEO of Yad Ezer l’Haver. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Sabag described a day in 2009 when Shoshana Kolmer was sitting in the institution’s dining room, psychiatrist Isabella Greenberg told that as a 15-year-old she had been competing in her school’s annual beauty pageant when Nazis invaded her native Hungary. and took her to Auschwitz.
“She felt like her childhood was stopping at that moment,” Sabag recalled.
Greenberg suggested that dressing up and makeup could give the elderly survivors a boost – and the idea of a beauty contest was born.
“In the beginning, I had trouble swallowing it,” Sabag says.
“It seemed strange, women in the 80s and 90s, but I realized they could do it no less than a girl of 18. It’s not a contest of outer beauty, but a contest where each participant says: ‘I was in Lodz, I managed to survive and start a family, I volunteer, I feel like I defeated the Nazis, and I live and kick.’ It gives them a drive for life. ”
Prior to the party competition itself, the contestants were pampered and pampered for an entire week, with wardrobe, hair and makeup specialists present. They went to the Western Wall to celebrate Bat Mitzvah ceremonies.
The most recent competition, held in 2018, was won by Tova Ringer, then 93, who lost her entire family in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Iris Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, said: “Yad Vashem would not participate in such an activity, but we see that the survivors find something in this event that honors them and that they enjoy.”
One man who did not attend is Jerusalem man Rami Ostrovski, whose mother, Miriam Ostrovski, survived several Nazi extermination camps as a teenager, and who said he saw an ad for the event in the newspaper.
He told The Daily Beast that the competition is “pathetic and idiotic and exploitative of the Holocaust.”
“It’s not clear to me what the purpose is, but I would bet there is money behind it,” he said. The Friends of Zion Museum, which is virtually unknown to Israelis, is located on Rivlin Square, a large city square in the center of Jerusalem, which was purchased in its entirety by Mike Evans during the Trump years. He welcomed the former president during his visit to Israel with building-sized banners all over the city.
“There is absolutely no policy involved in this at all,” Evans’ spokesman Tal Marom told The Daily Beast. “Mike Evans takes care of the facilities for the party and he gives millions of dollars to Holocaust survivors every year. He’s just built a hotel for survivors on Rivlin Square.
“He does good for Holocaust survivors, period,” she said. “The point here is to make them happy.”
“I cried when a competitor told me she never had a childhood, she got my tears in her eyes,” Marom said.
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