Marilyn’s Jewish prayer book or ‘Siddur’, given to her by Paula Strasberg when she converted to Judaism and married Arthur Miller in 1956, was resold yesterday for $8,750 at J. Greenstein & Co. in Cedarhurst, NY, reports Antiques and the Arts. Originally auctioned at Christie’s in 1999, it was resold for $26,000 at Greenstein’s in November 2018 (see here), before going under the hammer again at a lower price just a year later.
Interestingly, the book was published in 1926, the year of Norma Jeane’s birth; and was first gifted to one Kenneth Wasserman on August 4th, 1934 – Monroe would pass away exactly 28 years later. It seems to have passed through several owners, including a Marilyn Cooper-Smith, nee Miller (1931-2014) who like her famous near-namesake, also received it upon her marriage.
After going unsold twice in the last year (as reported here), Marilyn’s Jewish prayer book has finally surpassed all expectations by selling for $26,000 at New York auctioneers J. Greenstein & Co. Widespread media coverage probably helped, as it became a viral story in the last month. At the 1999 Christie’s auction Marilyn’s ‘Siddur’ for $4,025, and this time around it was estimated to sell for $7,000 – $12,000 with a starting price of $4,600. The book, which contains annotations in pencil (though it is not confirmed that Marilyn made them – it could have been her Rabbi, Robert E. Goldburg) would probably be worth around $100 without the Monroe connection.
A Jewish prayer book or ‘Siddur’ acquired and personally annotated by Marilyn during her 1956 conversion will be auctioned at J. Greenstein & Co in Cedarhurst, New York on November 12, with an estimated price of $5,000 – $8,000, as Anthea Gerrie reports for the Jewish Chronicle. (Originally purchased at Christie’s in 1999, it went unsold at another New York auction last November.)
“The Siddur, being sold on behalf of an Israel-based American who bought it directly from the star’s estate in 1999, bears the imprint of the Avenue N Jewish Center in Brooklyn.
This was the shul of playwright Arthur Miller, Monroe’s third husband, and Jonathan Greenstein, New York’s prime auctioneer of Judaica, says a current member of the congregation has ambitions to return it to the synagogue: ‘He will be bidding on it himself, as he says it is known that Marilyn and Arthur Miller attended services there.’
It was not where the star studied for her conversion. Her mentor was Connecticut-based Rabbi Robert Goldburg, who married the couple in 1956 and later presided over Seders they attended.
History suggests she was driven to convert not only by her love for Miller, but rejection of the Christian fundamentalism practised by her foster parents … But despite keeping her Siddur close, playing the Hatikvah from time to time on her menorah and maintaining a mezuzah on her doorpost, Monroe did not get a Jewish burial.”