Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe in 1956. (ullstein bild via Getty Images)

On December 8, J. Greenstein & Co.’s Auction House, the world-renowned source for antique and rare Judaica, will host its biannual Judaica auction devoted solely to rare Jewish artifacts. The staple of the auction will be the prized prayer book formerly owned by Marilyn Monroe. The auction, which will be held at the Cedarhurst, Long Island, gallery and hosted by Jonathan Greenstein, chief expert and president of J. Greenstein & Company, will feature 197 rare and valuable objects. Items to be auctioned off include menorahs, Kiddush cups, silver Torah shields, spice boxes, paintings, and much more.

Marilyn Monroe converted to Judaism in 1956 at the same time as her marriage to American playwright Arthur Miller. The couple divorced in 1961, but Monroe remained committed to her new religion. This classic piece is inscribed on the front page with two dedications. The first, dated August 4, 1934, to Kenneth Wasserman from Mrs. A. Braunstein, and then apparently re-gifted to Mrs. Marilyn Cooper-Smith from Kenneth Wasserman who inscribed “To Mrs. Marilyn Cooper-Smith – I wish you to keep this bible with (which?) you are married (?).”

The book, originally purchased at the Christie’s auction of the Estate of Marilyn Monroe in 1999, serves as a once-in-a-lifetime chance for buyers to own a historic piece of Hollywood Judaica.

“It is only by the passing of one of the current owners that this Siddur now became available. Considering that the first siddur sold for $21,000 and her menorah for $90,000, this one starting at $6,000 is a bargain,” said Jonathan Greenstein, founder, president, and expert-in-charge at J Greenstein and Company, Inc. “We are proud to represent this historical piece of Hollywood-related Judaica.”

Pair of silver tefillin cases. Poland, c. 1820

Highlights for this year’s auction include the aforementioned prayer book originally purchased through Christie’s from Marilyn Monroe’s estate in 1999, estimated $8,000–12,000; Rare and Important Large Illuminated Marriage Contract, Venice, c. 1736, estimated $35,000–55,000; a Silver and Brass “Secret Synagogue,” Jerusalem, c. 1990, estimated $4,000–6,000; The Tree of Life Shtender by David Moss and Noam Greenberg, Jerusalem, c. 1990, estimated $12,000–15,000; a Monumental Sterling Silver Kiddush Cup by Yaacov Yemini, Jerusalem, c. 1980, estimated $8,000–12,000; and two Vintage Yiddish Optometrist Eye Charts, probably New York, c. 1920, estimated $1,200–1,500 each.

Additional auction items include:

  • Rare and Important Silver Spice Tower, Poland, c. 19th century, estimated $6,000–8,000
  • Silver Megillah Case with Original Megillah, Ottoman Empire, c. 1880, estimated $1,200–1,500
  • Rare and Important Pair of Silver Tefillin Cases, Poland, c. 1820, estimated $3,000–5,000
  • Important Silver Torah Shield by Barker Brother, Birmingham, 1898, estimated $5,000–8,000
  • Gold Snuff Box, Holy Land, c. 1900, estimated $1,500–2,000
  • Brass Hanukkah Lamp, Poland, early 20th century, estimated $2,000–3,000
  • Silver Spice Tower, Germany, c. 1900, estimated $1,500–2,000
  • Rare and Important Decorated Nautilus Shell, England, c. 1900, estimated $6,000–8,000
  • Large and Rare Silver Spice Container, Germany, 18th century, estimated $25,000–35,000
  • Large Wooden Torah Ark Ornament, Romania, 19th century, estimated $6,000–9,000
  • Monumental Wooden and Silver Torah Ark by Shuki Freiman, Jerusalem, c. 1990, estimated $20,000–30,000
  • Handmade Wooden and Sterling Megillah Case by Dekel Aviv, Jerusalem, Modern, estimated $1,200–2,000
  • Early Israel Silver Filigree Etrog Box, Israel, c. 1960, estimated $800–1,200.

The gallery hosts numerous historic pieces from around the world, many of which will be featured in the auction. Currently, the J. Greenstein & Co. Auction House is the country’s only house solely devoted to the sale of Jewish ritual objects. In past years, Greenstein’s Auction House rose to fame from hosting celebrity Judaica including Sammy Davis Jr.’s personal menorah and items from victims of the Bernard Madoff scandal.

The auction will be held on December 8, beginning at noon, at 417 Central Avenue in Cedarhurst. Fully illustrated catalogs and hi-res images of select items are available upon request or online at https://jgreenstein.com/auction-2019-12-08/.

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