Sammy Davis Jr.’s Menorah Fails To Sell

By Rebecca Dube

Published June 10, 2009, issue of June 19, 2009.

Celebrity sparkle wasn’t enough to sell Sammy Davis Jr.’s menorah at auction.

The silver menorah that belonged to one of Judaism’s most famous converts went on the auction block June 8, but failed to garner the $10,000 minimum bid sought by the owner, a Judaica collector.

“Oh, Samela,” sighed auctioneer Jonathan Greenstein, who said he had advised the collector to lower his minimum bid. Greenstein said two people were interested in Davis’s menorah, and one was willing to pay $8,500, but the collector “wanted $10,000, and he wasn’t taking anything less. I said all right — what are you going to do?”

Davis converted to Judaism after a serious 1954 car crash that cost him his left eye. He played along with jokes about his conversion, but according to his friends and biographers, his religious sentiment was heartfelt. The menorah that went up for sale was a gift to Davis from the New York Federation and bears an inscription from 1965.

While Davis’s menorah is headed back to its owner’s safe deposit box, another piece of Judaica from a different sort of Jewish celebrity fetched a fine price. A diamond-studded Torah pointer, valued at $12,500 to $18,000, that belonged to Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, an influential leader of the Reform movement, sold for $23,000 at auction to a New York doctor who wished to remain anonymous.

Contact Rebecca Dube at dube@forward.com



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