Great Grandmother Wins ‘Miss Holocaust’ Pageant
A great grandmother has taken the crown in a pageant which has sparked mixed reactions as it aims to honour Holocaust survivors.
The ‘Miss Holocaust‘ pageant took place in Jerusalem this month, with great grandmother Selina Steinfield crowned as the winner on Tuesday night, November 16.
Born in Romania in 1935, Steinfield suffered violence at the hands of Nazis during her childhood before she emigrated to Israel in 1948. Now 86 years old, the survivor dedicates her time to ensuring other remaining Holocaust survivors are not lonely.
The great-grandmother was crowned winner of the pageant after 10 finalists were selected from 200 entrants aged between 70-90, all of whom survived experiences in Nazi death camps.
For the first time in the competition’s history, members of the public were able to have their say by rating each woman out of 10, with the contestants judged not only on appearance, but also ‘how they contribute to society, how happy they are in their life’, The Independent reports.
Commenting on her win, Steinfield said: ‘I don’t have any words to tell you, I am speechless. I hope everyone will understand that you need to be happy and satisfied in your life and do good things. Be human to each other.’
The idea for the pageant came from Shimon Sabag, founder and CEO of the organisation Yad Ezer l’Haver, which provides assistance to survivors. Speaking to The Independent, Sabag explained his hopes that the pageant would offer entrants a chance to experience some of their missed childhood.
About 13 years ago I heard some holocaust survivors talk to psychologists and said that they didn’t have their Batmitzvah or childhood… that’s when I came up with the idea of a beauty pageant. We decided to try to help them relive some of the missing happiness.
It might seem strange to have a pageant for that age group, especially those who’ve survived this darkest chapter of our history, but just as it’s important to remember The Holocaust survivors are the light that illuminates humanity when the world is dark.
Sabag said he’s received ‘nothing but praise’ from survivors since he began running the event, though Yael Ebenstein, whose mother Noemi survived the Strasshof Concentration camp in Austria, questioned whether the event was appropriate.
They acknowledged that drawing attention to the ‘impressive women’ was admirable, though added: ‘I wonder if a pageant is the best venue to honour these women. The concept of a beauty pageant has often been considered an objectification of women, especially when there is an emphasis on appearance.’
Ebenstein continued: ‘Perhaps an event that includes a competition or ‘beauty pageant’ might trivialise the holocaust.’
For Sabag, however, the pageant offers ‘an experience that will stay with [survivors] for years to come.’
This year’s pageant was broadcast live by the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem, which provides assistance to survivors of the Holocaust in Israel.
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