Parents of Slain Journalist to Light Menorah

The parents of Steven Sotloff, who was beheaded by ISIS terrorists, will light a menorah in his honor at Chabad Center in Miami.

Faygie Levy ,

Lighting Chanukah candles (illustration)
Lighting Chanukah candles (illustration)
Nati Shohat/Flash 90

As Jews around the world gather to mark the first night of Chanukah on Tuesday, the Chabad Center of Kendall & Pinecrest in Miami will take some time to honor the memory of Steven Sotloff, the 31-year-old freelance journalist and Florida native who was abducted and later beheaded by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists.

Sotloff, a native of Miami, graduated from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya after studying there between 2005 and 2008, and eventually made aliyah (emigrated to Israel). Testimony from freed European hostages suggest Sotloff's captors did not have any idea he was Jewish or Israeli - despite the reportedly great lengths he went towards to keep his Judaism in captivity.

His parents, Arthur and Shirley Sotloff of South Florida, are set to light the first Chanukah candle in his memory during the Chabad center’s outdoor public menorah-lighting in Miami on Tuesday night.

They were invited to do so at the request of Rabbi Yossi Harlig, co-director of the Chabad center with his wife, Nechama, who wanted to do something meaningful to remember the young man and former resident.

“Steve was a proud Jew who always enjoyed the holidays,” says his father, Arthur Sotloff. “It was one of his defining characteristics.”

Rabbi Harlig added, “He worked to keep Jewish traditions in dark places, and we felt that really symbolizes the eight-day holiday of Chanukah, which celebrates freedom and light.”

Harlig got to know the Sotloffs on a personal level after their son’s death, while they were sitting shiva (the seven-day Jewish mourning period). During that time, the rabbi learned how important it was for the fallen journalist “to go into places that were very dark, where people are being mistreated and tortured, and tell the world about those injustices.”

“I think it’s very commendable,” said the rabbi, “when a person wants to live a life that has an impact in the world and wants to change the world. That’s a lesson we can all learn—that if we see a place where we can help, we have a responsibility to do so.”

Sotloff’s maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors who instilled in their children a deep appreciation of Jewish values and the freedoms they enjoyed in America. Arthur Sotloff noted, “Steve was always focused on revealing persecution wherever it occurred. His grandparents taught him about the price of remaining silent.”

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