Selina Steinfeld is Israel’s first, and hopefully last, Miss Holocaust. By last we, God forbid, do not mean that there should be no more survivors available to compete. We mean that the very idea of a Miss Holocaust competition is sick.
She was one of ten contestants who ranged in age from 79 to 90.
Why? Why did anyone think that this was a good idea? Why was this done? Beauty pageants are already on their way out. They are sexist, demean women and have no point anymore, not in the era of Instagram and social media “influencers.”
The pageant was sponsored by local non-profit “Yad Ezer L’Haver,” which means “Helping Hand.” The organization works with the estimated 175,000 Holocaust survivors who live in Israel today. It is funded by an evangelical Christian Mike Evans. He owns the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem which hosted the gala, and presented the award to the winner.
But the 86 year old Steinfeld felt differently. After winning she said, “I have no words to express my happiness. To lead the people of Israel to beauty and goodness.” What?
What does this have to do with goodness?
Kuka Palmon was another contestant in the pageant. She survived a pogrom in her native Romania. “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 Palmon. “And yet here I am, at this great age, 87. It’s a godly thing, it is indescribable.”
Shimon Sabag, the chief executive of Yad Ezer L’Haver, said “These amazing women, Holocaust survivors, are already in their twilight years and will not be here with us for much longer. Holocaust survivors are the true heroines of us all and thanks to them, we are here today.”
— Reuters (@Reuters) November 16, 2021
Sabag dismissed criticisms in an interview with The Daily Beast. “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 said.
“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,” added Sabag.
Yad Ezer L’Haver was founded in 2001 by Baruch Sabag and his brother Shimon, who had been in a serious car accident. Following his remarkable recovery he decided to devote what he saw as the gift of life, and he and Baruch set themselves the task of helping to alleviate the suffering of Israel’s large and ever growing population of hungry and needy people in a time of increased economic pressure and distress.