Inner beauty was the theme of the second annual Miss Holocaust Survivor beauty
contest, as 14 finalists aged 70 to 94 walked down the runway and told their
courageous stories Thursday evening in Haifa.
Shoshana Kolmer, 94, who
survived Auschwitz and a four-day death march in the snow, was crowned winner of
Kolmer’s message to the audience was to “study the Shoah and
never forget it,” adding that it is important to “pass on the information to the
next generation so they never forget there was a Holocaust.”
aliya in 1946 and has since survived rocket attacks on her home during the
Second Lebanon War in 2006.
The contest took place at Haifa’s Romema
Sport Arena, where about 2,500 people – mostly Holocaust survivors and their
families – attended. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahab was also on hand.
came from Israel, the US, Canada, France, the UK and Belgium to participate in
The show was co-sponsored by the International Christian
Embassy Jerusalem and Haifa-based Yad Ezer L’Haver, to raise awareness for the
needs of Holocaust survivors in Israel.
The ICEJ says there are
approximately 200,000 survivors living in Israel, a third of which are living
below the poverty line.
The Yad Ezer L’Haver organization assists
Israel’s needy, providing homes for about 80 Holocaust survivors who are
suffering financially at the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors.
survivors are housed in nine apartment buildings and provided with a dining
hall, dental and medical clinics, and a community center where they can attend
synagogue and participate in art and music classes.
A panel of judges,
including cosmetics queen and former model Pnina Rosenblum and media personality
Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, were in charge of scoring the contestants, with judging
weighted mostly on inner beauty and poise.
Fourth-place winner Koka
Palmon, 79, said she was honored to participate.
“It’s very exciting to
be in this position,” said Palmon, originally from Romania.
unbelievable for me at my age to be here, the queen of the beauty
Palmon said it’s important for young generations to take pride
in the accomplishments of Holocaust survivors.
“I don’t want anymore that
the youngsters will suffer what we suffered,” she said. “We must be proud. We
must tell the whole world we will never experience again the humiliation that we
Fifth place winner Margalit Gantz – just nine when she was
separated from her family, and survived bombings while hiding in the Budapest
ghetto – agreed.
“We want to send a message to the whole world as well
that they should see that after we suffered, we built a new home and we overcame
[tragedy],” said Gantz, 80, who made aliya soon after the
According to ICEJ executive director Dr. Juergen
Buehler, working with Holocaust survivors is “the crown of what we are doing in
a way here in Israel because the Holocaust survivors, more than any other group
in Israel, represent the whole idea of Am Yisrael Chai.”
founder and manager of the Haifa Home, said that pampering the survivors, who
arrived to the event in limos, with fancy clothing and makeup courtesy of
Israeli cosmetic companies, helps the survivors feel beautiful and overcome
“All women who are now participating were young girls
when the Holocaust happened and when they come here and stand on the stage with
their husbands and families and their grandchildren, they feel the greatest
because it’s their pride that they built families,” he said.
Sabag stressed that the contest should not be confused with official beauty
pageants like “Miss Israel.”
“Every single contestant tonight literally
went through hell – they went through Auschwitz or other Holocaust concentration
camps – so in a way it’s a celebration of their survival… and that we can help
them,” Buehler said.
“Those who criticize us, we want to tell them please
come next year and look for yourself at the faces of the Holocaust survivors,
and this will speak volumes.”