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Steven Sotloff's Childhood Temple Holds Memorial Service

Sep 5, 2014
Originally published on September 9, 2014 7:50 am

Hundreds of mourners gathered at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest to remember Steven Sotloff, the South Florida native who was killed ​b​y militant extremists in Iraq.

​Video of Sotloff's beheading was released earlier this week.

On Friday afternoon,​ ​about 600 friends,​ ​family and complete strangers came together in memory of Sotloff.

"They want to celebrate his life, not just his death," said Robert Hersh, executive director of Temple Beth Am.

For the Sotloff family, Temple Beth Am is home. Sotloff's mother​ Shirley​ taught preschool ​t​here for more than 20 years. The family attended services ​t​here for decades. And when Steven ​needed advice on his trips to the Middle East as a journal​i​st, he turned to Rabbi Terry Bookman at the temple.

Bookman led Friday's memorial service.

"We grieve for what might have been, for joys unrealized, for tasks undone," he said.

Bookman said the eyes of the world were watching Steven's memorial​,​ and he was aware of the geopolitical nature of ​Steven's death.​ ​​He ackn​owledged Sen​.​ Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist in attendance.

But on this day, ​the​ memorial was a personal tribute to a son, a brother, a cousin and a friend.

"Steven would be really proud to say he lived his dream," said his mother Shirley​.​ ​She​ recalled Steven's wild moments as a young boy who once fractured his arm after climbing to the very top of a play set.

For his father Arthur​ Sotloff​, Steven was his best friend.​ ​Arthur struggled to speak at times through his tears.

"I want to speak from my heart, but my heart is broken," ​he said.

Aunts and cousins recalled called him as "​our beloved Steven." To his family, he was a warrior, a sympathetic soul and the life of the party.​ ​Rabbi Bookman briefly addressed the extremists who took Steven's life. He called them a cancer.

Sen. Rubio said Steven​'s death unmasked true evil.

"When it happens to someone just like us​,​ it shocks us into reality," Rubio said.

During the service, a family member read excerpts from a letter Steven was able to get to his family during his captivity.​ ​The letter was dated May 2014. In it, Steven Sotloff wrote words of advice to his family:

"Everyone has two lives, the second one begins when you realize you only have one."

"Do what makes you happy."

"Love and respect each other, don't fight over nonsense."

In the same letter, he also wrote his family a conditional goodbye.

"If we're not together again, perhaps God will be merciful to reunite us in heaven."

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