Former Temple Israel Rabbi Steven L. Mills dies at 57

Rabbi Steven L. Mills

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Rabbi Steven L. Mills, a former St. Louisan who served as associate rabbi at Temple Israel from 1995 to 2000, died July 2, 2017. He was 57.

Rabbi Mills, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Am in Parsippany, N.J. since 2014, was a graduate of Cleveland Marshall College of Law and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He practiced law for two years prior to beginning rabbinic studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. He was ordained in 1993.

At the time of his appointment in 1995 as associate rabbi of Temple Israel, it was pointed out that Rabbi Mills brought to St. Louis “an educational, artistic and legal frame of mind,” as noted in a Jewish Light article announcing his hire.

Rabbi Mills was a skilled cartoonist, whose work appeared in the Light and other Jewish publication. He was twice a recipient of the Noah Bee Editorial Cartoonist Prize, part of the Simon Rockower Awards for Jewish journalism of the American Jewish Press Association.

Rabbi Mark Shook, rabbi emeritus of Temple Israel, said in a statement to the Light: “The news of Rabbi Mills’ sudden death has left my family in a state of shock. Steve brought all of his talents to our congregation. Most of all he brought his compassion and deep love for Jewish education.” 

Shook said Rabbi Mills started a program at Temple Israel “before the advent of JDate” called MATCHBOOK, a dating service for Jewish singles that led to a number of successful matches. Rabbi Mills also wrote and illustrated a children’s book. 

In addition, he and Shook created and illustrated a board game designed to help temple board members confront the challenges of making decisions that affect congregational strength. 

“Steve was a wonderful colleague and friend,” Shook said. “My heart goes out to his entire family. He will be missed.” 

Prior to his tenure as rabbi of Temple Beth Am in New Jersey, Rabbi Mills served Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Des Moines, the largest synagogue in Iowa. He later became regional director for the Union for Reform Judaism’s Northeast Lakes Council/Detroit Federation.

Rabbi Mills is survived by his wife, Rabbi Estelle Gottman Mills; children Rafi, Sivan and Noa; his mother, Joyce Harris Mills of Lakeworth, Fla.; and a brother, David Mills of Tampa, Fla.

Funeral services were held July 5 at Temple Beth Am. Burial was at Beth El Cemetery in Paramus, N.J.