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Israeli Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant celebrates the beauty of a resilient life

Romanian grandmother who escaped Nazi extermination of Jews across Europe wins this year's competition

Participants in Israel’s Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant in Jerusalem, Nov. 16, 2021. (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

An 86-year old woman who survived the horrors of the Holocaust in Romania during the Second World War was honored this week when she won Israel’s Miss Holocaust Survivor competition 2021 at the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem. 

Selina Steinfeld, who moved to the Jewish state in 1948, today has three children, seven grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. 

The unique competition is meant to bring joy to these women and an opportunity to experience "a piece of the childhood that was stolen from them," one of the founders said.

Overall, 10 women in their 80s and 90s took part in the unique competition that celebrates the beauty of the resilient lives of Holocaust survivors against all odds. Like conventional beauty pageants, a team of professional hairdressers, stylists and makeup artists pampered the participants and made a truly special experience come true. 

A visibly moved Steinfeld, expressed her joy over becoming Israel’s Miss Holocaust Survivor.

“I have no words to express my happiness,” Steinfeld said

The pageant was hosted at Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem. Among other things, the museum celebrates Gentile heroes who assisted persecuted Jews during the Holocaust.

The Yad Ezer L’Haver (Helping Hand) Foundation has been organizing the unique “Miss Holocaust Survivor” contest for several years. This year’s event was the first since the COVID-19 pandemic and included the attendance of Holocaust survivors, ambassadors and artists.

The event was also broadcast online to millions of viewers in Israel and around the world. The famous Israeli model and TV presenter Moran Atias was the master of ceremonies at the event, alongside the composer Nancy Brandes, a dedicated long-time volunteer for the Yad Ezer L’Haver Foundation. 

The non-profit organization Yad Ezer L’Haver was established in 2001 in Haifa by the brothers Baruch and Simon Sabag. Simon miraculously survived a serious car accident, which the brothers saw as a gift of life. Consequently, they decided to support the poor in Israel with food and shelter. In addition, the organization assists Israel’s aging Holocaust survivors, many of whom live in poverty and are unable to pay for medication and other essentials. 

Following its reestablishment in May 1948, the young Jewish state absorbed over half a million Jewish Holocaust survivors from Europe. With the passage of time, the number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling rapidly. In April 2021, Israel’s state statistics bureau estimated that around 180,000 Holocaust survivors were still living in Israel at the end of 2020. 

Last year some 900 Israeli Holocaust survivors died due to COVID-19 related complications. By the end of 2021, the number of Holocaust survivors in the Jewish state was around 175,000 individuals. 

Simon Sabag, the CEO and founder of Yad Ezer L’Haver, praised the Holocaust survivors as true heroes who played a prominent role in the establishment of modern Israel. 

“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,” Sabag stated

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