Israel is celebrating survivors of the Holocaust—with a beauty pageant? Some 300 women throughout the country applied for the chance to vie for the "Miss Holocaust Survivor" title; 14 took the stage yesterday. The women, ages 74 to 97, were all smiles as they waved to the crowd, but some observers were highly disturbed by the event. "It sounds totally macabre to me," says the head of a major survivors' group.
"I am in favor of enriching lives," she added, "but a one-time pageant masquerading (survivors) with beautiful clothes is not what is going to make their lives more meaningful." But contestants felt differently about the show, which organizers say was only 10% about looks (the New York Times notes there was an absence of swimsuits and a preponderance of "sensible shoes") and emphasized personal stories of survival. "I have the privilege to show the world that Hitler wanted to exterminate us and we are alive. We are also enjoying life. Thank God it's that way," said one contestant. The winner? Hava Hershkovitz, 78, who was banished from her home in Romania in 1941 and spent three years in a Soviet Union detention camp.