An 86-Year-Old Woman is Crowned 'Miss Holocaust Survivor' After Pageant Win

Selina Steinfeld, an 86-year-old survivor from Romania, was crowned Miss Holocaust Survivor at the pageant in Israel, the Associated Press reported.

Steinfeld moved to Israel in 1948 after surviving roundups and massacres during the Holocaust. She was among 10 women, all in their 80s and 90s, who took part in the pageant in Jerusalem.

"I have no words to express my happiness," Steinfeld said after winning. She also said that she hoped "to lead the people of Israel to beauty and goodness."

According to AP, the participants "were treated by professional makeup artists, hairdressers and stylists throughout the day before the evening competition." Local celebrities also provided entertainment and helped to judge the contest before Steinfeld was crowned. Miss Holocaust Survivor is sponsored by local foundation Yad Ezer L'Haver, which helps to assist survivors, and was hosted at the Friends of Zion Museum.

But the Miss Holocaust Survivor contest has been criticized by some for exploiting the tragedy. Speaking to The Daily Beast, Jerusalem resident Rami Ostrovski called the event "pathetic and idiotic and exploitative of the Holocaust" while also questioning its true intention. His mother was a Holocaust survivor

"It is not clear to me what its purpose is, but I'll bet there is money behind it," Ostrovski said.

Shimon Sabag, the chief executive of Yad Ezer L'Haver, has a different and more positive outlook on the event.

"These amazing women, Holocaust survivors, are already in their twilight years and will not be here with us for much longer," he told AP, adding that he hopes the event helps to honor the women who survived the genocide.

"Holocaust survivors are the true heroines of us all, and thanks to them, we are here today."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Selina Steinfeld
Selina Steinfeld waves after winning the Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant at the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem on November 16, 2021. Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

The event is meant to bring members of Israel's rapidly dwindling population of Holocaust survivors some joy and recognition.

According to the pageant organizers, after moving to Israel, Steinfeld married and raised three children. She also has seven grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.

Israel was established in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust as a refuge for Jews from around the world. The country is home to an aging population of some 175,000 people who survived the Holocaust, when an estimated 6 million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.

It was the first time the event was held since 2018. Last year, it was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miss Holocaust Survivor
Selina Steinfeld, 86, is crowned Miss Holocaust Survivor in Jerusalem on November 16, 2021. Ten contestants participated in the pageant, which was held for the first time since 2019 after being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. AP Photo/Oded Balilty