World

Steven Sotloff memorial held after ISIS beheading confirmed

Several hundred people have arrived at the Temple Beth Am in Florida for a memorial service for Steven Sotloff, days after Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants released a video depicting the journalist's beheading.

31-year-old journalist's Israeli roots kept secret from ISIS captors

American journalist Steven Sotloff talks to Libyan rebels in Misrata, Libya, in June 2011. (Etienne de Malglaive/Getty Images)

Several hundred people have arrived at the Temple Beth Am in Florida for a memorial service for Steven Sotloff, days after Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants released a video depicting the journalist's beheading.

There was heavy security, with officers stationed at the front gate and entrance of the building in Pinecrest. Inside, projectors display the front of the temple where the memorial service will take place.

The temple's executive director Robert Hersh said Sotloff's parents and sister are expected to speak. He said the service was arranged as quickly as possible, keeping with Jewish custom, even though Sotloff's body is not there.

"Our job is to help them grieve, and that's what we're here to do as a family," Hersh said. He said the family will sit shiva, the Jewish mourning period, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Sotloff was 'no war junkie,' family says

Organizers distributed a sheet of paper with the lyrics to a song Sotloff's sister, Lauren Sotloff, had chosen — Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.

Sotloff attended the temple school as a child, and his mother, Shirley Sotloff, teaches preschool there.

He was also an Israeli citizen, a fact that was not widely known before his death — in part because Israel's military censor apparently kept a lid on the story for his safety. His killers are not believed to have known about his background.

ISIS has beheaded two American journalists it held captive for what the militants called payback for more than 120 U.S. airstrikes on its assets in northern Iraq since Aug. 8.

Arthur Sotloff, father of slain journalist Steven Sotloff, leaves their family home in Pinecrest, Fla., on Tuesday. (Andrew Innerarity/Reuters)
Journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were two of what the State Department has described as "a few" Americans still being held hostage by the group. ISIS also had threatened to kill a British man it is holding hostage.

In a statement on Wednesday, a family spokesman said Sotloff dedicated his life to portraying the suffering of people in war zones, but was "no hero."

Family spokesman Barak Barfi told reporters gathered outside the family's suburban Miami home that Sotloff "tried to find good concealed in a world of darkness," and to give voice to the weak and suffering in the Arab world. Barfi said Sotloff was "no war junkie," but was drawn to the stories of the turbulent Middle East, and his family has pledged to "not allow our enemies to hold us hostage with the sole weapon they possess — fear."

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