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Who Got Sammy’s Menorah and the Rabbi’s Crown?

Come On Light Sammy's Fire

Come On Light Sammy's Fire

Sammy Davis, Jr., the quadruple-plus threat – actor, dancer, singer, member of the famed Rat Pack, and African-American Jew – received a menorah, as a gift in 1965, from a Jewish women’s philanthropy. Davis, who was integral to breaking the Miami Beach and Las Vegas hotel segregation codes, became interested in Judaism after befriending a rabbi during his convalescence from a horrid car accident – an accident which resulted in the loss of one of his eyes. It helped, too, that he was buds with Joey Bishop. Davis later converted to Judaism and became America’s most celebrated Jew by Choice. Who among us do not recall the rat pack’s comic jibes at Sammy’s Jewishness, or his Jewish jokes on his appearance on the hit television show, All in the Family.

After Sammy’s death, the menorah was sold in the sale of his estate’s assets in 1991 to satisfy the IRS. The menorah was put back on the auction block tonight in New York City in a slightly worn ballroom of a NYC Koreatown hotel. Greenstein and Co., were the auctioneers; it is led by Jonathan E. Greenstein, who is quite the mensch in the world of auctions. He also has quite the kopf for silver kiddish cups.

Over 220 items, or lots, were part of the auction. Many lots resulted in “passes,” or no sales, since few were able to meet their minimum auction estimates. Was this due to the recession, the current auction market, high estimates, or a significantly large number of lots (a lot of antique Judaica has entered the market this Spring due to perhaps personal financial losses, Madoff losses, and the recession)? I don’t know. Only a pundit can tell us.

SIlver and diamond Yad (c 1800)

SIlver and diamond Yad (c 1800)

Before Sammy’s menorah, however, there were other items of blogging interest. A Torah yad and a Torah crown, which were retirement gifts to Rabbi Alexander Schindler, an eminent leader of the American Jewish community, were also part of the auction. Rabbi Schindler led the Reform movement of synagogues for several decades. At his death in 2000, at the age of 75, The New York Times referred to him as one of the most influential American Jewish leaders. Sadly, his pension was primarily invested with Bernard Madoff, which necessitated his widow, Rhea Schindler, to sell these items that they had hoped to keep as family heirlooms.

It was nice that some elderly friends of the late Rabbi Schindler attended the auction to lend moral support to his family. Lot #121 was a gilded silver Torah pointer with diamonds which looked so sleek and modern, but it is about 200 years old and was crafted in the Netherlands. The nearly 11 inch yad had three old European cut diamonds. It was expected to fetch between $12,500 and $18,000. A bidding war between two

Silver Torah Crown

Silver Torah Crown

collectors ensued and created a brief flurry of excitement. The yad sold for $23,000. Who purchased it? That is not public information, but at that price, and in this economic climate, it was probably a New York physician (not a hedge fund manager) with a good heart and with an eye for lovely and usable Judaica. Lot #122 was a silver Torah Crown, about 11 inches high with a pear shaped apex and golden bells. It sold for $9,000, about 12% over its estimated value.

As for Sammy’s menorah that was engraved with “Yes We Can”… the bidding reached $8500, slightly below the minimum estimated value of $12,000. Although satisfying and delicious to see, it did not get sold this time around. The “Yes We Can” will have to wait. Is the “Candy Man” resting peacefully on this news? Probably.

1 Comment

  1. Ron Jeremy

    6/9/2009 at 8:30 pm

    Greenstein is not only a Judaica expert, but in addition, he is known to have a 9″ penis. This is a true rarity for a Jewish man.

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