‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’: Celebrate Beauty!

Beauty is all around us and just because we seek it doesn’t mean we see it.  The key is in the definition (of beauty) and the hope and expectation: ‘I’ll know it when I see it’.

Celebrating beauty: Hava Hershkovitz crowned ‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’

There is so much pressure and unrealistic expectations of beauty thanks to fashion mags and the silver screen.  Then there is Of course the ultimate celebration and proclamation of beauty:   beauty contests.

I won’t criticize beauty contests here and now .  This post is about celebrating one  important, unusual, and  very controversial contest:  ‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’.

14  women aged  74 – 97 competed on Friday, June 28th, in Haifa, Israel for the crown of most ‘beautiful’ Holocaust survivor.  The criteria was  (largely) on their survival story and lifetime work.

Is a beauty pageant the answer to celebrating these women?  If it reminds us of the beauty of survival and the strength of the human spirit, I say yes.

“This place is full of survivors. It puts us at the center of attention so people will care. 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,” the silver-haired Hershkovitz said.  (Hava Hershkovitz was crowned the winner!)

“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,” added Esther Libber, a 74-year-old runner-up who fled her home in Poland as a child, hid in a forest and was rescued by a Polish woman. She said she lost her entire immediate family.

Pageant’s many critics  felt focusing on beauty belittled the gravity of the Holocaust.  Others felt the sponsoring cosmetic companies ‘making up’ the contestants were in it for their own gain. I say focus on redefining beauty.   I think this is an opportunity to really, finally, understand  ‘beauty comes from within’.

A BBC listener commented on Friday’s story, ‘I can’t believe people came out of Auschwitz smiling’ (as a contest critique).  Based on my chilly October day tour last year, I couldn’t believe people came out at allhttps://identity5772.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/from-unimaginable-to-awe/

Imagine being able to survive such dehumanizing and horrific conditions, to survive and raise families, contribute to society, build the state of Israel, and have the humor to compete in a beauty contest.    I was and am filled with awe.

Survival takes strength.  If that’s not beauty, what is?   I think about how ‘difficult’ it is to ‘survive’ in today’s economic downturn.  In tough times it’s easy to shrug off shows of beauty,  diminishing (my own) strength.   Imagine  holding onto beauty in the depths of your soul in a death camp, partisan forest, or a root cellar.

300 interested contestants obviously survived with strength and dignity.   They  deserve my respect for their example to primp and preen and flaunt their beauty .

There are about 200,000 (aging)   Holocaust survivors still alive in Israel.

Sadly, Genocides continue.

‘Never Again’.  The Holocaust wasn’t just about extermination – it is about miraculous survival.

The Nazi’s and their collaborators showed the worst of human nature.  Survivors, the best.  Survival of the fittest!  Winner,  Ms. Hershkovitz, beautifully reminds us:  ‘We’re still here.’

How do you define beauty? 

Is this an appropriate way to honor Holocaust survivors?   Share your ideas!

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/06/29/israel-crowns-miss-holocaust-survivor/

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5 responses to “‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’: Celebrate Beauty!

  1. Linda–excellent post. As I read the story, I thought the strength, stamina, humor, and mind-set of the women who entered this contest were probably the same characteristics that allowed them to survive in the first place. Society so often equates “beauty” with physical beauty. But what these women showed is a different kind of beauty, one that anyone can have no matter how they “look”. This is the kind of beauty that doesn’t fade, but can be passed on from generation to generation, regardless of genes. I say bless these women. May I, with my relatively easy and very blessed life, show the same sort of involvement with life when I am their age.

    And to your question of is it proper to honor them this way? I say any way to honor and celebrate them is appropriate, as long as they feel honored and not in any way feel diminished.

  2. Linda, this story has really struck a chord with me. While I do question the role of the cosmetics companies, I love the idea of celebrating these women’s lives as survivors. They are, indeed, beautiful no matter what. I think there is a play in this.

  3. Pingback: People I Have Met . . . « Woman Wielding Words

  4. This is a beautiful story. To survive such an atrocity and rebuild one’s life with graceful dignity, to overcome the greatest horrors known to civilization with such elegance is extraordinarily beautiful, and this runs much deeper than the superficial, this is a celebration of the human spirit.

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