Steven Sotloff Hid His Jewish Identity From ISIS Captors, Fasted On Yom Kippur

Steven Sotloff, the American journalist purportedly beheaded by ISIS militants in Syria yesterday, was Jewish -- a fact he was careful to conceal from his abductors due to their racist worldview.

People who knew Sotloff said he was a generous man who was fascinated by journalism and had a particular interest in middle east affairs.

A friend who was with Sotloff in captivity told the Yedioth Aharonoth publication that Sotloff was Jewish, explaining:

"He told them he was sick and doesn't want to eat, even though we were served eggs that day. He used to pray secretly in the direction of Jerusalem. He would see in which direction (his Muslim captors) were praying and then adjust the angle."
James Denton, a publisher and editor of the World Affairs journal who employed Steven Sotloff in the past, said about him: "He struck me as a very, very decent guy... he wasn't chasing headlines, he wasn't hyping a pitch. He wanted to get the story, he wanted to peel away the layers."

At the Sotloff residence in Florida, two police vehicles blocked the driveway, and officers urged reporters to leave the family in peace at this difficult time.

Sotloff was raised in the Miami area, and graduated from Kimball Union Academy, a prep school in New Hampshire.

As a student at Kimball, Sotloff, "developed a passion for reporting and writing, a gift that he shared with people around the world, and this unthinkable act of terror has taken him from us far too soon," New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a statement.

In a tribute to Steven Sotloff, TIME editor Nancy Gibbs said that he: "gave his life so readers would have access to information from some of the most dangerous places in the world."

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sotloff family, who we wish strength and courage to at this trying time.