Steven Sotloff Memorial by Tracy Ellyn

“Seeds: In Memory of Steven Sotloff” by Tracy Ellyn, 2014. Copyright Tracy Ellyn 2014. All rights reserved.

Just days after President Obama toasted to the memory of slain journalist Steven Sotloff at his White House Correspondents Dinner, and just one day after Sotloff’s birthday, the Steven Sotloff Memorial art piece will be unveiled on May 12, 2015 during an opening at Greenspoon Marder Law Foundation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.The artwork, by American artist Tracy Ellyn, is one of two planned duplicate originals thus far, the other one planned for Temple Beth Am in Miami, where Steven grew up and his family still attends. Two others are planned for the near future, in Washington, D.C. and New York.

Titled “Seeds: In Memory of Steven Sotloff,” the vibrant and generously detailed piece seeks to honor Sotloff’s memory by keeping his story alive for now and generations to come, with the hope that changes can be made and that history does not continue to repeat itself, as it has in the news this past year alone.

The artist also wanted the memorial to bring awareness about the 2LIVES Foundation. Commemorating the tragic loss of Steven and in tribute to his commitment to excellence in news reporting, the Sotloff family and friends have established 2LIVES: Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation. It is their hope that the professionalism, determination and strength of this extraordinary young journalist will continue to touch the lives of thousands of others and tell their stories in meaningful ways.The 2LIVES Foundation was established by the Sotloff family and friends to provide scholarships for journalism and liberal arts students who have the passion, skills and desire to follow in Steven’s footsteps and pursue careers in journalism – particularly to tell the stories of people in conflict-torn regions around the world.

Steven Sotloff was a courageous and adventurous freelance journalist, passionate about reporting news through the eyes of people in conflict-torn areas. Working from some of the most dangerous regions of the world, he wove together stories of average individuals and families simply trying to survive, trying to make an impact on others, and trying to find hope in a world of festering darkness. Steven’s work not only brought widespread attention to the plight of his subjects, but also has inspired other journalists and students to follow in his footsteps.

Steven was in the Middle East by choice, rather than by assignment. On August 4, 2013, after crossing the Syrian border from Turkey, he was kidnapped, along with several others, near Aleppo by militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). During his captivity, he managed to smuggle out two letters to his parents, Arthur and Shirley, one of which said in part: “Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize that you only have one.”  Despite tireless work by his family and government agencies to gain his release, Steven was savagely murdered by a member of ISIS on September 2, 2014. The horrific murder was videotaped and distributed for the entire world to see.

While being held captive by ISIS militants, Steven wrote home to his parents, imploring them to make the changes they wish to see in the world. The 2LIVES Foundation is dedicated to fulfilling Steven’s hope of uniting the world by bringing the stories of people who are suffering to people who can make a difference. Remarking on the situation in Syria during 2013 and 2014, Steven said, “I have to believe there is good somewhere in this world of darkness that we live in.”  The 2LIVES Foundation will be working with young, talented, aspiring journalists dedicated to bringing light to a world increasingly in need of illumination. The memorial is abundant with symbolism. It has no likeness of Sotloff, and makes no mention of his tragic passing, but rather of his wish for peace that he strove for through his journalism. In fact, the only symbolic hint of any Middle East conflict is the Dome of the Rock/Temple Mount in the background. However, the Sim Shalom (Prayer to Grant Peace), written in the sky above Jerusalem where he lived as an adult, overcomes even that conflict, asking for peace, kindness, righteousness, blessing, mercy and life.

The pomegranates in the memorial, symbols of Israel and the Middle East, are traditionally the fruits of righteousness, because they each are said to have 613 seeds, which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, of the Torah. They are the symbol of life in all the major religions, and because they are evergreen throughout the year, they are also the symbol of immortality of the soul. Pomegranates are coming forth in the piece to us in the US from Jerusalem, spreading their seeds, from which new life is growing abundantly in the form of orchids. The orchid is known throughout history and cultures for its healing, disease-fighting and protective properties, and well as bravery and strength, and, of course, fertility or new life.

The now infamous words of Steven, miraculously smuggled out in two letters to his family while he was held hostage, are embedded copiously into all the lush new life of greenery that is growing into the foreground. One of his many sentences contained in the greenery is, “Everyone has two lives; the second one begins when you realize you only have one.” These are the words that inspired his parents, Arthur and Shirley Sotloff, to name their foundation the 2LIVES Foundation. Other words depicted from his two smuggled letters include, “Do what makes you happy. Be where you are happy. Love and respect each other. Don’t fight over nonsense. Hug each other every day.  Eat dinner together. Live your lives to the fullest. Stay positive and patient.”

The unveiling of the Sotloff Memorial is part of Greenspoon Marder Foundation’s Community Arts Partnership (CAP), which is developing long-term partnerships with other foundations, to raise awareness and generate funding for the arts in our local communities. CAP supports artistic expression through all avenues of art and works to advocate the primal essence of art for individuals in need, dissolve barriers of communication and unite the community as a whole. Besides the Steven Sotloff Memorial 2 Lives Foundation, the 9 other foundations partnering with Greenspoon Marder include the Dan Marino Foundation, Here’s Help, Young At Art Museum, the Zen Tov Project, Casa Valentina, Ann Storck Center, ARC Broward, Life Quest Foundation and Fund 4 Design & Art Education.

Four floors of Greenspoon Marder Law’s dynamic new space in downtown Fort Lauderdale are dedicated to not only their law offices, but also their CAP gallery space. Original art created by some of the children and adults these foundations serve, including foster children and the disabled, proudly hang in the vicinity of the artwork by professional artists such as Henning Haupt, Tracy Ellyn, Haley Moss and others.

Most of the artwork is for sale and 100% of the money raised by the sale is distributed to the CAP’s Community Arts Partner foundations so that they may continue to serve their communities. The Opening Art Exhibition and Reception is on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 from 5:30 to 8:00 pm, at Greenspoon Marder Law, 200 East Broward Boulevard, 18th Floor, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301. There will be cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and gallery tours. Please RSVP to (754)200-7000.