Steven Sotloff should be ineligible for the Forward 50. Our list honors the living. But Sotloff, who was murdered by Islamic militants in the summer, merits special inclusion. To the end, he held fast to his beliefs, both as a journalist and as a Jew. If not for the fanatical ideology of his murderers, Sotloff would still be alive.**
Sotloff was drawn to the Middle East by his Jewish background. The grandson of Holocaust survivors, he was raised in a Reform Jewish household in Pinecrest, Florida. He made aliyah to Israel in 2005 and studied government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
One friend told The Times of Israel that Sotloff constantly questioned the status quo. That spirit of inquiry propelled Sotloff as he covered the Arab Spring as a freelance journalist for Israeli and American publications. His reports from Libya, Syria and Egypt often focused on the little people: the rebel fighter, the anti-government protester, the seamstress. As his family said in a statement: “He was no war junkie…. He merely wanted to give voice to those who had none.”
When Sotloff was kidnapped in August 2013, his friends scrubbed the Internet of all mention of his Jewish and Israeli background. Even his captivity was kept quiet in the hope it would improve his chance of survival. The first the world knew of Sotloff was in August, when he was paraded on video by Islamic State militants, following the beheading of another journalist, James Foley. Weeks later, Sotloff was dead. He was 31.