Salina Steinfeld, 86, was crowned Miss Holocaust Survivor. (AP/Oded Balilty) (AP/Oded Balilty)
Miss Holocaust Survivor

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“I have no words to express my happiness,” said the winner, who enjoyed the special day of pampering and hopes “to lead the people of Israel to beauty and goodness.” 

By Associated Press and United with Israel

An 86-year-old woman who survived mass roundups and massacres of Jews as a child in Romania was crowned on Tuesday Israel’s “Miss Holocaust Survivor.”

The pageant has a two-fold purpose: to honor the survivors and to raise awareness by giving them a forum to tell their stories for posterity.

Hundreds of women in their 80s and 90s took part in the special pageant, sponsored by a local foundation and meant to bring members of Israel’s rapidly dwindling population of Holocaust survivors some joy and recognition.

The women were treated by professional makeup artists, hairdressers and stylists throughout the day before the evening competition. A number of local celebrities, including Miss Israel Noa Kochba, served as judges and provided entertainment to the crowd before Selina Steinfeld was crowned the winner.

According to the pageant organizers, Steinfeld moved to Israel in 1948, married and raised three children. She also has seven grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.

“I have no words to express my happiness,” said Steinfeld. She said she had enjoyed the special day of pampering and that she hoped “to lead the people of Israel to beauty and goodness.”

The modern State of Israel was established in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust. The country is home to an aging population of some 175,000 people who survived the Holocaust, when six million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.

The pageant is sponsored by “Yad Ezer L’Haver,” or “Helping Hand,” a local foundation that provides services to Holocaust survivors. It was the first time the event was held since 2018. Last year, it was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to i24 News, “a lot of these women were so excited to have this opportunity,” having lost out on childhood experiences “like dressing up, trying on high heels for the first time, because they were just trying to survive.”

“Today I’m experiencing something special that I never dreamed of in my life,” one survivor, who at the age of five-and-a-half was among Jews deported in death convoys, walking 30 kilometers a day, told the i24 reporter. “My grandmother held me in her arms. At night she froze to death, and I survived.”

“These amazing women, Holocaust survivors, are already in their twilight years and will not be here with us for much longer,” said Shimon Sabag, the group’s chief executive. “Holocaust survivors are the true heroines of us all and thanks to them, we are here today.”

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