Monroe was ‘sincere’ convert

  • monroec
Recently-released letters by officiating rabbi at her conversion before third and last husband, playwright Arthur Miller, say Marilyn was “heart-felt” convert.
by ANT KATZ | Oct 16, 2015

Practiced until her death

Screen temptress Marilyn Monroe had the most difficult of childhoods imaginable yet managed to rise above it all, becoming the most sought-after model and actress of her day. Over a 15-year career she appeared in 29 films and was working on the 30th when she died.

Marilyn's first two marriages, to James Dougherty and Joe DiMaggio, both failed.

monroe Tall

RIGHT: Snaps of the happy couple on the steps of the shul

She met Jewish playwright Arthur Miller during the filming of “Bus Stop” and the couple fell in love.

They tried their best to keep their relationship out of public view, while Marilyn began investigating the idea of converting to Judaism - a religion and people she held in high esteem, according to her rabbi and confidant.

Despite the best efforts to maintain secrecy, a suspicious reporter had an accident in his car while following them.

Tragically a passenger in the reporter's car was killed and the couple announced their engagement shortly thereafter.

The couple married in 1956 but divorced just five years later – although she reportedly continued to practise Judaism until her untimely death in 1962. One of the few public appearances she made in a Jewish context was in the city of Philadelphia.

The recently unveiled letters

Several years ago, REFORM JUDAISM MAGAZINE published newly-released letters from the rabbi who officiated at Monroe conversion. The letters reveal that Monroe was not only a serious and heart-felt convert to Judaism, she continued to identify as Jewish after her divorce from Jewish playwright Arthur Miller.

Arthur and Marilyn were married in late June of 1956 in a civil ceremony. On July 1 of that year, after her conversion to Judaism, they were married again in a Jewish ceremony officiated by Robert Goldburg, a Reform rabbi at Congregation Mishkan Israel, in New Haven, Connecticut. According to the rabbi, the reason they had a civil ceremony first was because they were hoping to keep the religious ceremony free from an onslaught of paparazzi.

monroe chupah

LEFT: Few of their peers knew that at the time that Marilyn had undergone a Reform conversion and re-married Arthur Miller under the chuppah


The letters, which Rabbi Goldburg wrote shortly after the events, have been sealed until now. He requested that they not be opened until "some years later" - although the RJ article doesn't say why it is they appeared at that particular time.

The letters show that Marilyn had rejected the fundamentalist Protestant upbringing of your youth.

Her desire to become Jewish was self-motivated, although her relationship with Arthur was clearly an influential one.

'Jewish people had produced great characters'

"She indicated that she was attracted to Judaism by being impressed with Jewish people that she knew, especially Miller," the rabbi writes. "She said that she was aware of the great characters that the Jewish people had produced and that she had read selections from Albert Einstein's 'Out of My Later Years'... She indicated that she was impressed with the rationalism of Judaism - its ethical and prophetic ideals and its concept of close family life."

Marilyn and Rabbi Goldburg met on numerous occasions to study and to discuss books he assigned her to read prior to her conversion. "No pressure was put on Marilyn to convert, by Arthur or me," the rabbi wrote to one of his mentors.

"She had negative feelings towards Christianity and positive feelings towards the Jewish people. She often identified with the 'underdog' and at the same time had an enormous respect and admiration for intellectuals.

On August 5 Marilyn Monroe (her birth-name was Norma Jeane Mortenson) was found dead in her home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, California. She was 36 years old, and the cause of death was, according to the autopsy later done, “acute barbiturate poisoning”.


1 Comment

  1. 1 Denis Solomons 04 Nov
    A screen icon but not necessarily a good role model .
    If she was so "frum" then why did she die of an apparent suicide barbiturate overdose.
    Norma Jean or Marilyn Monroe as the song goes was like a candle in the wind with no-one to turn to !
    In actual fact a deeply disturbed individual with mood swings and Bipolar disorder.
    Unfortunately this all occurred before the invention and use of Prozac.
    What about her tumultuous relationship with the Kennedys ?
    Not one of Rashi's disciples.


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