Parents of Jewish journalist Sotloff open up to press one year after ISIS beheading

In final letter from his son, Steven Sotloff's father tells the Miami Herald that he left "a kind of a blueprint for the way Jews are supposed to live.”

August 31, 2015 14:32
2 minute read.
Steven Sotloff beheading

Steven Sotloff beheading. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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In a final letter from his son, Steven Sotloff’s father tells The Miami Herald that he left “a kind of a blueprint for the way Jews are supposed to live.”

On the first anniversary of the Islamic State beheading of freelance journalist Steven Sotloff, his parents Shirley and Arthur opened up to the press in a recent interview with the Herald in which they recount stories from their son’s life and describe how they are dealing with the loss.

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The grandson of Holocaust survivors, Sotloff came to Israel in 2005 and studied at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya until 2008, later taking on Israeli citizenship and eventually becoming a contributor to The Jerusalem Report , a sister-publication of The Jerusalem Post .

He had also worked for Time, Foreign Policy , and other outlets.

The 31-year-old from Pinecrest, Florida, was kidnapped in Syria in August 2013 one year before the hardline Islamic group executed him.

“We don’t have Steven,” Arthur, a salesman told the Herald . “Steven is in a desert somewhere, laying in pieces with thousands of other people that have been killed. We’ll probably never get his remains back, so that means we won’t get the closure most people get when they lose somebody. This has been very difficult.”

“We were in shock,” Steven’s mother, Shirley, said, describing how she felt when she heard of her son’s execution.

“There is no closure if there is no body,” Shirley, a teacher at Temple Beth Am Day School added.

“I always told him to follow his dream, whatever he wanted to do. Of all the things he studied, journalism was the least thing he wanted to pursue and yet, later in life, that’s what he did. He became a profound writer. He touched places that a lot of people didn’t touch,” Arthur says.

In June 2014, a couple of months before his execution, Arthur and Shirley received a smuggled letter from their son in which he wrote: “Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize that you only have one. Hug each other every day. Don’t fight over stupid things.”

The Sotloffs, with family friends, created the 2Lives Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation using the quote from the letter in the foundation’s name.

In addition to journalism scholarships, they’re thinking of joining with Diane Foley, mother of James Foley, to establish a hostage crisis center for families in the US. James Foley was a US journalist who was also executed by Islamic State around the same time as Sotloff.

“The UK has a crisis place for families to go to. The US has nothing,” Shirley says.

“I want enough money to build an organization,” Arthur told the Herald , slapping his hand on the dining table. “I’m 68 years old. How many more years do I have? “Twenty years from now I want to make sure my son’s name is remembered by doing good things.”

Referring to the June 2014 letter from his son, Arthur Sotloff said he knew that his son was saying goodbye.

“He knew he wasn’t going to make it out, because he was told that every day, that he wouldn’t, by his captors and he was telling us to go on with our lives. It was kind of a blueprint for the way Jews are supposed to live.”

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