CEDARHURST, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A small book with a simple white binding is getting global buzz.
Called a siddur in Hebrew, it’s a prayer book that belonged to Marilyn Monroe.
Monroe converted to Judaism when she married one of America’s most famous playwrights, Arthur Miller.
“She made Jews very proud at the time,” said Jonathan Greenstein of Cedarhurst Gallery.
Of the things Monroe is best known for, being Jewish may not be on anyone’s list. But now the role religion played in her life story is front and center as her book goes up for auction at Cedarhurst Gallery.
“We’ve had some pretty important and cool things, but this is the most significant piece of American judaica,” he told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
There are personal markings in pencil in the book.
“So this could have been a message from?” asked McLogan.
“Arthur Miller to Marilyn Monroe, or Marilyn Monroe in her own handwriting,” he said.
At one point, the word “omit” is written in the margin. The meaning of the note?
“Not to say this when she said her morning prayers, because traditionally women did not wear tallit,” Greenstein said.
“The prayer shawl?” McLogan asked.
“Yes, correct,” he said.
Monroe and Miller’s marriage lasted five years. She died in 1962, 19 months after their divorce, but she maintained her Jewish identity and the prayer book until the end.
The book originally passed through Arthur Miller’s Brooklyn synagogue. Born in Harlem, the playwright graduated from the University of Michigan, where McLogan got to meet him.
Arthur Miller came to Ann Arbor and spoke to McLogan’s theater class about religion and faith in his plays, and he was also asked about Marilyn Monroe converting to Judaism.
“One of the reasons I read that she converted to Judaism is because of her own family instability and she wanted to very close to Arthur Miller’s family,” Greenstein said.
Remarkable tales to tell of celebrity and religion. If it didn’t belong to them, the book might go for $50. Instead, it may bring $15,000 at auction.