Great grandmother wins Miss Holocaust pageant for survivors of Nazi genocide

All 10 finalists survived the horrors of the Nazi death camps

Natalie Lisbona
Wednesday 17 November 2021 13:42
<p>Winner, Selina Steinfield </p>

Winner, Selina Steinfield

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As Israel prepares to host the 70th Miss Universe contest next month, a more unlikely pageant has taken place in Jerusalem, the Miss Holocaust survivor competition.

An 86-year-old great grandmother Selina Steinfield, was crowned as this year’s winner on Tuesday night.

The competition is held, say organisers, to try and gain some of the “missing happiness” suffered by Holocaust survivors during their childhood.

“I don’t have any words to tell you, I am speechless.” She said as she received her crown and sash on stage.  “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.”

Born in 1935, in Romania, Selina had a very difficult childhood and suffered violence at the hands of the Nazis before emigrating to Israel in 1948. She is married with three children, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren. She now dedicates her time to ensuring remaining Holocaust survivors are not lonely.

The competition has been running for several years but this year was the first time the public were able to vote for their favourite on the Facebook pages of the Friends of Zion Museum and of the Yad Ezer L’Haver Foundation.

The 10 finalists were picked from 200 hopefuls over the ages of 70 to 90, all of them survived the horrors of the Nazi death camps. Online voters were asked to rate each of the women out of ten.

Speaking to The Independent, Shimon Sabag, founder and CEO of Yad Ezer l’Haver, which provides assistance to survivors, said he came up with the idea in order to give them 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.

“It’s also vital that those who survived should be given as much opportunity to have joy in their lives. Since I’ve run it I’ve had nothing but praise from survivors who appreciate the event enormously."

He added: “These amazing women, Holocaust survivors, are already in their twilight years and will not be here with us for much longer. This day is an experience that will stay with them for years to come.”

Winners are not just judged on appearance, but also “how they contribute to society, how happy they are in their life. There are 10 finalists, and they are all winners and given the same prize”.

However, some do not agree with holding the pageant.

Yael Ebenstein 46, whose Hungarian mother Noemi, survived Strasshof Concentration camp in Austria at four years old said they would not attend.

“While the goal of drawing attention to these impressive women is admirable, I wonder if a pageant is the best venue to honour these women,” Yael told The Independent.

“The concept of a beauty pageant has often been considered an objectification of women, especially when there is an emphasis on appearance.”

The evnt took place in Jerusalem

“Perhaps an event that includes a competition or ‘beauty pageant’ might trivialise the holocaust.”

The last pageant was held in 2018, due to the Covid pandemic, and was won by Polish-born Tova Ringer a 93-year-old grandmother.

Tuesday’s event was broadcast live by the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem, which provides assistance to Holocaust survivors in Israel and also provides a platform to commemorate the heroic stories of the Righteous Among the Nations – heroes who helped the Jews during the Holocaust.

Six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis during WWII, and Israel’s annual Holocaust Day is one of the most solemn occasions on the calendar.

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