As Jews the world over gather to mark the first night of Chanukah on Tuesday, Dec. 16, the Chabad Center of Kendall & Pinecrest in Miami will take some time to honor the memory of a man who sought to bring a little more light and truth to the world.

Steven Sotloff, a 31-year-old freelance journalist and Florida native, was abducted near Aleppo, Syria, in August 2013 by the ISIS terror group. In early September, the world learned of his beheading in Iraq.

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. 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.”

Along those lines, adds Harlig: “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.”

Born and raised in Miami, Sotloff attended the University of Central Florida for two years between 2002 and 2004, where he wrote for the campus newspaper, the Central Florida Future. The school held a candle-light vigil for him shortly after hearing the news of his murder. As a professional journalist, he also held Israeli citizenship.

According to Europeans who were imprisoned with Sotloff, during his captivity he would pray towards Jerusalem in the east and even fasted on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, by pretending to be sick.

Steven Sotloff on Masada in Israel
Steven Sotloff on Masada in Israel

‘An Impact in the World’

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,” says 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. Notes Arthur Sotloff: “Steve was always focused on revealing persecution wherever it occurred. His grandparents taught him about the price of remaining silent.”

Arthur Sotloff sees a more direct line between Chanukah and his son’s life.

“Chanukah is a time we commemorate the vanquishing of our enemies who tried to deprive us of our right to live with Torah,” he explains. “The Maccabees fought for Judaism, and Steve fought for the values they endowed us with.”

The menorah-lighting ceremony will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m., at the Chabad Center of Kendall & Pinecrest Campus, 8700 SW 112th St., in Miami.

For more information, contact Chabad of Kendall & Pinecrest.

The Sotloffs have established the 2Lives Foundation ( to honor their son’s legacy. The fund will grant scholarships to graduate students and journalists.