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Marilyn Monroe prayer book to be auctioned in Cedarhurst

Hollywood legend converted to Judaism when she wed Arthur Miller


Hollywood screen legend and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe converted to Judaism in 1956, the same year she married playwright Arthur Miller. Despite the couple’s divorce five years later, Monroe remained faithful to her adopted religion, according to film historians.

On Nov. 12, J. Greenstein & Co., an auction house in Cedarhurst, will auction Monroe’s personal Jewish prayer book: “The Form of Daily Prayers. According to the Customs of German and Polish Jews,” published by H. Wagner in Vienna, Austria in 1922.

The book notations in pencil is thought to be in Monroe’s handwriting, according to Jonathan Greenstein’s description, he is the auction house proprietor. The book’s binding is cream-colored laminate and its spine is nearly detached.

“The book is worn, and is clearly used,” Greenstein said. “Notes indicate the couple learning together, as there are notes about Miller’s brachia (blessing) over tefillin and tzitzit (the tassels of a tallis, a Jewish prayer shawl), while other places say ‘omit’ for men’s brachot (blessing for the tzitzit). It’s really a wonderful piece documenting the religious lives of not one, but two very famous and influential people.”

Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the great American play, “Death of a Salesman,” was born in the Harlem section of Manhattan to an immigrant family of Polish and Jewish descent. He is considered one of the 20th century’s foremost writers. He died in 2005 at the age of 89. His rabbi, Rabbi Robert Goldberg, guided Monroe through her religious conversion and officiated at the wedding.

Monroe was one of Hollywood’s great beauties, known as a “blond bombshell,” who was also a tremendous comedic actress, starring in “Some Like It Hot” with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, and “The Seven Year Itch” the movie made famous by Monroe’s legendary scene where air rising up from a New York City subway grate raises her skirt. The image created a sensation and is an iconic movie scene. Unfortunately, her life took a tragic turn, and she died of a barbiturate overdose in 1962 at 36 in an apparent suicide.

J. Greenstein describes itself as a boutique auction house that only sells Judaica, antique Jewish ritual objects, and Jewish-themed art. Previously, the auction house has auctioned Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s piano, Sammy David Jr.’s personal menorah and Alan Dershowitz’s Judaica collection.

J. Greenstein’s 57th auction will include several other items. It takes place on Monday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m., at 417 Cedarhurst Ave. in Cedarhurst.