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To some, it represents the birth of Jesus Christ, the immaculately conceived love child of a Galilean woman named Mary and a theistic entity referred to as God. But for 18 Jewish gals ages 17 to 26 and hailing from the South Florida metropolitan area, December 25 will be a day of competition, an all-out, matzo-balls-to-the-wall beauty pageant to see who'll be crowned Miss Jewish South Florida 2011.
After a seven-year hiatus, this pageant is back. It's under new management, promising better prizes and topnotch entertainment direct from the Holy Land. It's billed as the "Main Hanukkah party for South Florida," and some of Israel's biggest pop music names will share the Littman Theater stage in North Miami — Eli Edan, Avi Sinvani, Gal Sinvani, and Julietta Daniel.
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"We're doing [the pageant] in areas where there are a lot of Jewish communities. You're not going to find a lot of Jews in Tallahassee or Jacksonville," organizer Ronnie Hazan says. "The girls are from all over South Florida."
Hazan says more than 100 young ladies applied for a shot at the crown. So he and his crew have had the tough task of narrowing the field. As expected, the competition always begins with beauty, he says. "Then we ask a few questions, tell them what's necessary — the rehearsals, this, that. Some say, 'Oh, I can't do it' or 'I'm not going to have time,' and we automatically ban them. They have to work for us, be part of this all the way."
Helping the 18 hopefuls is the reigning Miss Jewish South Florida, Elinor Kadosh. She's 28 now, married, and pregnant with her second child. "I basically help out with the walking so they go out there looking like they know what they're doing," she says. "We've been rehearsing for about a month and a half, two months."
Judging the competition is a panel comprising "doctors, lawyers, and fashion people," all of whom will evaluate the way the ladies look, walk, and speak. "They're going to be asked questions by the judges," Hazan says. "Tricky questions like, 'What do you want to do if you're an animal?'"
All the contestants will receive "high-end" prizes, the organizer insists. "They're going to win a lot of beautiful gifts and the opportunity to sign up with [modeling] agencies in the future."
When Kadosh was crowned Miss Jewish South Florida in 2004, the then-21-year-old walked away with jewelry. "I was supposed to get a car worth $11,000, but it didn't happen," she says. "Then again, it was a lot of fun and I didn't really do it for the prizes. I did it for the chavaya."
Kadosh's chavaya, or experience, was featured on Israeli news outlets, and the young beauty queen became a sort of microcelebrity within the Jewish community. Postpageant life, however, has been much different.
"People still remember that I won, but they don't recognize me. I got married, I have a son, and another on the way. It's a completely different life now."