Friends say he developed a deep love for the Islamic world, Kept Judaism secret from captors by feigning illness when he had to fast, Reported for Time, World Affairs and the Christian Science Monitor, Was based in Libya before he began reporting from Syria.
Steven Sotloff was the grandson of two Holocaust survivors who was fully aware of the risks of reporting from Middle East - and made it his career anyway. The Jewish journalist - who held joint American and Israeli citizenship - spoke fluent Arabic and had a showed a deep love for the Islamic world before he was captured by ISIS militants in Syria in 2013. He was executed by them on Tuesday.
quoting a former fellow hostage, said Sotloff had kept his Judaism a secret from his Islamist captors by pretending to be sick when he fasted for the Yom Kippur holiday.
Sotloff, 31, grew up in Miami with his mother Shirley - whose parents were both Holocaust survivors - and father Art before attending the Kimball Union Academy boarding school in New Hampshire from which he graduated in 2002
He then studied at the University of Central Florida. On Wednesday, Sotloff's mother left her Miami home without making any comment. Shirley Sotloff briefly waved to the media outside her home in south Miami before getting into a friend's car and driven away.
|Egyptian-English-Muslim Jihadi John beheading sotloff.|
UCF spokeswoman Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala said school records show Sotloff was a student majoring in journalism from fall 2002 until fall 2004. However, Sotloff did not complete his degree and graduate.
University of Central Florida President John C. Hitt said on learning of his death: 'Our UCF family mourns Steven’s death, and we join millions of people around the world who are outraged at this despicable and unjustifiable act.'
While at Kimball, Sotloff was an avid rugby player and on moving to UFC began working for the student newspaper the Central Florida Future. He left the paper in 2005 and began to pursue his dreams of journalism full time.
'The guy lit up a room. He was always such a loyal, caring and good friend to us,' said Josh Polsky to the New York Times. Polsky had shared a dormitory suite with Sotloff. 'If you needed to rely on anybody for anything he would drop everything on a dime for you or for anyone else.'
It also emerged on Wednesday that Steven Sotloff held joint American and Israeli citizenship. Sofloff, who was born in Miami and was the grandson of two Holocaust survivors arrived in Israel in 2008 to become an undergraduate at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya according to the Times of Israel.
'I’m not so sure it was about the Israeli-Arab conflict, I think it was more how they treat their own people. But he still came back to visit,' she said. 'He didn’t hate it enough to not come visit,' she said. 'He still considered it his home.'
After he graduated from the IDC, Sotloff freelanced for the Jerusalem Post and the Jerusalem Report and from there moved onto Foreign Policy and Time. His editor at the Jerusalem Report in 2011-12, Illene Prusher, called him fearless.
'He was an excellent journalist, and he filed great work,' she said to the Times of Israel. He was our only guy who was filing from the region, and he was filing for a bunch of different places… In addition to covering Libya, he was covering Arab uprisings. I felt like he really cared about it, he thought it was extremely important. He was very conscientious, enterprising and brave.'
As a freelancer, Sotloff travelled the Arab world and eventually arrived in Syria in August, 2013. The Times of Israel said that they knew he was Jewish, but kept it secret in case his kidnappers found out. Sotloff wrote reports from Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Turkey and Syria.
'A million people could have told him what he was doing was foolish, it seemed like it to us outsiders looking in, but to him it was what he loved to do and you weren’t going to stop him,' said his friend, Emerson Lotzia. 'Steve said it was scary over there. It was dangerous. It wasn’t safe to be over there. He knew it. He kept going back.'
Lotzia, now a Florida sports reporter, tweeted his horror after his friend’s execution: ‘Devastated and crushed. Steve was an amazing friend. Lucky to have him in my life. Heart is heavy for his family. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.’
Sotloff wrote about the lawlessness in Libya after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi, and criticized the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi wrote the New York Times. 'With no security organizations to ensure order and an ineffective justice system unable to prosecute suspects, Libyans fear their country is slowly crumbling around them.'
|Sotloff reporting with Libyan jihadists.|
Sotloff 'is known to us as an honest and thoughtful journalist who strives to understand the story from local perspectives and report his findings straightforwardly,' World Affairs said last month.
Foreign Policy editor David Kenner said he would remember Sotloff 'as a brave and talented reporter' while colleague Tom Coghlan recalled him as 'a really good writer and humane journalist'.
An avid user of social media, he sent out his last tweet on August 3 last year about his hometown basketball team the Miami Heat. He is believed to have been kidnapped by Isis the following day.
According to his Twitter account, he was based in Benghazi, Libya, at the time. In a tweet from June last year he wrote: 'Is it bad that I want to focus on #syria, but all I can think of is a #HEATFinals repeat?'
'Steven embodies what it takes to report from combat zones,' said Bill Roggio, managing editor of the Long War Journal, a news website for which Sotloff wrote in 2011 from Cairo. 'He has that courage and little bit of craziness that you need to take risks to observe and understand a story in dangerous places.'
Speaking to The Miami Herald before the apparent beheading, she insisted that Sotloff was 'no war junkie'. He was, she said 'committed to the Arab Spring and very respectful of Islamic culture'.
Sotloff's family had previously been advised not to go public with news of his disappearance. But a family friend wrote about Sotloff last December, saying he had gone missing on August 4 and to pray for his return.