The prayer book from Marilyn Monroe’s Jewish conversion is up for sale

Newlyweds Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller.
Newlyweds Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller.
Image: AP Photo
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Marilyn Monroe met playwright Arthur Miller on the set of As Young As You Feel, in 1951. That night, she wrote in her diary: “Met a man tonight … It was, bam! It was like running into a tree. You know, like a cool drink when you’ve had a fever.”

Within five years, the two had married and Monroe had converted to Judaism. Now, her personal prayer book, known as a siddur, is going under the hammer in a New York auction on Nov. 12. The cream-colored book is expected to sell for thousands. Annotations throughout it are believed to have been made by the actress herself, “as if someone were receiving instructions on what prayers to recite/not to recite,” the auction listing notes. The book was previously sold by Christie’s in 1999 in a lot of related items for $4,025 and is now in some disrepair, with its spine all but detached.

Monroe’s conversion came as a surprise to many. Miller’s family was not Orthodox, and he was not personally religious. (Later, he said that he saw her conversion as “rather unnecessary.”) But Monroe seems to have had a sincere, personal interest in becoming Jewish, telling Rabbi Robert Goldburg, who oversaw her conversion,  “that she was impressed with the rationalism of Judaism—its ethical and prophetic ideals and its concept of close family life,” as he wrote in a letter to a mentor.

Throughout her marriage to Miller, Monroe appeared at fundraising events for Hebrew University, celebrated Chanukah and attended Goldburg’s Passover seders. After the couple divorced in 1961, Monroe told Goldburg that she had no intention of renouncing Judaism after their separation. When she died the following year, however, she did not receive a Jewish burial or funeral, and was buried in the non-denominational Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park & Mortuary. Her Catholic ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio, oversaw the details of the ceremony.