Members of Baltimore’s Jewish community are in mourning following the death of 31-year-old David Miller, a resident of Moishe House Baltimore and member of Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebl.
Miller, who used he and they pronouns, was a student at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Miller attended Yale for his undergraduate studies and moved to Baltimore in the summer of 2019, according to Moishe House Facebook posts. He had plans to move to Los Angeles, said Rabbi Ariana Katz of Hinenu.
“David was really curious,” Katz said. “David was really ready to take on more and more Jewish practice, learn more and more about our tradition and was just in general just really excited to soak up all of the learning.”
Miller had been a resident of Moishe House Baltimore since August of 2020.
“David was a resilient person and led a life full of meaning and community,” a Moishe House post said on Facebook. Miller felt “passionately about creating a welcoming space for, as they put it at the time, ‘the religiously unaffiliated, to come together, celebrate, and live Jewishly together.’”
Miller died after an overdose. He had previously been eight-and-a-half years sober, Katz said, and his sobriety was important to him. Katz said that it was important to be open about the cause of his death to help shed some of the stigma associated with drug addiction and recovery, and also honor the years that Miller had fought for sobriety.
“This addiction is what took David, and we want to honor David’s life even as we talk about their cause of death,” Katz said.
At Hinenu, Miller was enrolled in Katz’s Diving into Judaism class and was always willing to show up as a community member and friend, and to lug around furniture when needed, Katz said.
“They often would come early and help set up the space,” Katz said, “and sort of very early on in joining our community they would be tasked with schlepping furniture around and were really generous with their time and their energy.”
For Miller, their spiritual life was something of a lifeline, Katz said.
“Whenever we would sit and learn together, which was one on one monthly, we would have really beautiful conversations on a mystical level, thinking about how daily practice and the larger values of who they wanted to be in their life connected with the day in day out of Jewish observance,” Katz said.
Additionally, Miller was also a sperm donor, Katz noted. He helped as many as eight LGBTQ families have children.
“It was something that David and their family were so proud of,” Katz said. “That’s such a beautiful testament to David’s generosity and who they were in life, and that this legacy of queer family making is one that will be able to carry on David’s story even after they died.”
Hinenu created an online fundraiser to help pay for the expenses of Miller’s burial in Nashville, Tenn., next to their grandmother and great-grandmother. The fund exceeded its goal of $10,500. The funds came from Hinenu congregants, the Baltimore Jewish community and through Miller’s extended network, Katz said.
Miller had “traveled in many different places and spaces and touched many different Jewish communities and communities of learning,” Katz said.
It was important to Miller that he have a Jewish funeral, Katz said. She added that the family will decide at a later date what type of trust or endowment will be opened for any additional funds raised.
Miller is survived by parents Kenneth Southwell and Teresa Triantafilu; siblings Trevor Hillsbery, Noah Carroll, Jason Southwell, Matthew Hunter and Lisen Cronin; nieces and nephews Tova Cronin and Zev Cronin; and friend Shefali Kashiv. Miller is also survived by donor recipient families Jacqueline and Samantha Tucker and child Samuel Tucker and soon-to-be child; Ashley and Tiffany Johnson and soon-to-be child; Manduella and Sokrin Fuller-Keo and child EllaRose; Keisha and Krystal Sullivan and child Kairo; Kylie and Beth Fredrick and child Henley; Chante Light, Cherelle Allen and child Kolbeigh; Tiffany Boyd and child Bryson’Lee; Samantha and Kristina Rodriguez and child Zackari Rodriguez and soon-to-be child; Alexis Bell and child Ayden P.; and Tab Avery.