The Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant, in which Holocaust survivors ranging in age from 74 to 97 competed for the title in Israel, has been criticized as macabre by some and as a celebration of life -- and a triumph over evil -- by others.
The Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant, held in Haifa, was not solely a beauty pageant; the winner was selected based on her personal story of surviving the Holocaust, with each contestant's appearance considered only a minor factor in the contest, according to Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant organizer Shimon Sabag, director of the charity Yad Ezer L'Haver (Helping Hand.)
Still, Colette Avital, the recently named chairwoman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, an umbrella group representing 50 Holocaust survivor organizations, slammed the pageant.
It sounds totally macabre to me, Avital, herself a Holocaust survivor, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. I am in favor of enriching lives, but a one-time pageant masquerading (survivors) with beautiful clothes is not what is going to make their lives more meaningful.
Lily Haber, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who runs an organization that helps survivors in Poland, agreed.
Why use a beauty contest to show that these people survived and that they're brave? she told the Associated Press. I think it's awful. I think it's something a decent person shouldn't even think about.
Sabag dismissed the pageant's critics, who claimed Miss Holocaust Survivor was inappropriate.
The survivors feel good together. They are having a good time and laughing in the rehearsals. The fact that so many wanted to participate proves it's a good idea, Sabag told Haaretz.
Thursday's competition was comprised of 14 finalists who were chosen out of about 300 female Holocaust survivors who entered the pageant in Israel.
Contestants in the Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant recounted how the Nazis terrorized their lives.
Hava Hershkovitz, a 79-year-old native of Romania who was crowned Miss Holocaust Survivor, endured three years in a detention camp in the Soviet Union after being kicked out of her house.
It's not easy at this age to be in a beauty contest, but we're all doing it to show that we're still here, said Esther Libber, a 74-year-old survivor who was the contest's runner-up.
Libber was the only member of her immediate family to survive the Holocaust; she survived by hiding in a forest and was rescued by a woman in Poland.
I have the privilege to show the world that Hitler wanted to exterminate us, and [yet] we are alive, she said as she walked along a red carpet during the contest. We are also enjoying life. Thank God it's this way.
Word of the Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant spread on Twitter, where most users expressed their outrage that the pageant was held.
Israel held a 'miss holocaust survivor' contest. That just doesn't make sense to me, wrote Twitter user @Robert_Charles.
The Boise Daily News Twitter account called Miss Holocaust Survivor the worst pageant ever.
Leaves a very bad taste, opined user @kaveston.