PINECREST(CBSMiami)—It was an emotional memorial service at a Pinecrest temple for journalist Steven Sotloff, whose killing at the hands of Islamic militants has sparked international outrage.
Rabbi Terry Bookman began the service at Temple Beth Am with the words, “Is there a greater sorrow than this? Let our silence reach out to the bereaved.”READ MORE: Amber Alert Issued for 9-Year-Old Aniya Arcia
Friday’s service was protected by police and traffic cones line the street on SW 88th Street.
More than 700 people attended. Among them were dignitaries including Governor Rick Scott, Gubernatorial candidate Charley Crist, Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Republican Congressman Mario Diaz Balart.
Sotloff attended the Temple Beth Am school as a child. His mother Shirley Sotloff teaches preschool there.
“In the end, Steven was taken from us not because of who he was but because of what he represented: freedom,” said Rabbi Bookman.
Rabbi Bookman has been by the Sotloff family’s side during this difficult time.
Bookman gave parental advice to the fellow families in attendance.
“I want everyone to know they should go home tonight and give their son or daughter a kiss and celebrate who they are and guide them and allow them to follow their passion and their dream like Arthur and Shirley did,” he said.
His parents, Shirley and Arthur are devastated. They wept and clutched each other.
His mother began by saying, “He lived his dream” and called referred to Steven as the “joy of my life.”
Arthur Sotloff, wiping away tears, said, “I want to speak from my heart but my heart is broken.” He went on, “I miss him very much. I have lost my best friend but I know his passing will change the world.”
His mother stood before the packed Temple, “I’m so proud of my son for living his dream, he will always be in my heart and memories.”
After Sotloff’s tearful parents spoke, they received a big hug from Rabbi Bookman before they stepped down from the podium.
Then a gathering of cousins and other relatives gathered at the podium to share moments of joy.
It was revealed at the memorial that Steven Sotloff was able to quietly mail two letters while in captivity. A cousin read from one of the those letters.
“Everyone has two lives,” he wrote in a letter from May 2014. “The second one begins when you realize you only have one life.”
“Do what makes you happy, be where you are happy. Don’t fight over nonsense. Surround yourself with strong wise people. Please know I am ok. Live your lives to the fullest. Stay positive & patient. If we’re not together again, perhaps God will be merciful enough to reunite us in heaven.”
Emily Horowitz, who was a friend of Steven Sotloff, said, “This is tragic and devastating. It’s shame that this happened to Steven while he was doing his job. He was just starting his career.”
Some who are attending the service are not only grieving but also calling for action.
“This hurts me so much. We are all suffering. This is an unspeakable tragedy,” said the daughter of holocaust survivor Susan Paskow who knows the Sotloff family.
“Our hearts are with Arthur and Shirley,” she told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. “We are here for them. These people were animals.”READ MORE: Pedestrian Killed While Crossing I-75
Paskow said the ISIS terrorists were “beyond animals.”
Paskow hopes there will be a response by the government for this tragedy.
“We pray the government will do something so that this unfortunate tragedy does not happen again to another journalist,” she said.
Janet and Arthur Wilinsky are neighbors of the Sotloff family. As they grieved, Arthur said he hopes the government takes some kind of action.
“I hope they do something because of this,” he said.
Arthur Wilinsky also added, “There are no words to say. No parent should have to go through losing a child that way. We are supposed to go first.”
Islamic State militants released a video this week depicting Sotloff’s beheading.
President Barack Obama and other world leaders condemned his killing as a barbaric act.
Sen. Marco Rubio spoke at Friday’s memorial. “I speak for those of us who didn’t know him yet we knew him. We shared the same streets. He was us. He chose to be a journalist in one of the most dangerous places. That’s where he chose to speak his truth.”
When referencing the horrific execution, Sen. Rubio said, “He unmasked evil and woke us up to confront it before it’s too late to stop it. His execution revealed the true nature of evil in the world today.”
Mario Diaz Balart offered comforting words for Shirley Sotloff and family.
“I’m hoping she feels, the family will feel a little bit of a comfort knowing that the entire country is shocked and saddened,” he said.
Sotloff went missing in August 2013 while writing about the Syrian civil war as a freelance journalist for several publications.
Sotloff’s long-time friend Barak Barafi spoke on the family’s behalf Wednesday.
“Steve was no hero, like all of us, he was mere man who tried to find good concealed in a world of darkness and if it did not exist, he tried to create it.”
Sotloff attended UCF and later moved to Israel to study. He got a dual American-Israeli citizenship and secretly practiced Jewish religion in captivity.
While being held hostage, Sotloff’s family had to conceal his connection to Israel and Judaism, erasing everything online that made mention of it.
Sotloff’s body has not been recovered.
His parents will be “sitting shiva” and receiving visitors at the Pinecrest home for three days starting after sundown on Saturday.
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