Yesterday, visiting 60 year old Brooklyn orthodox Rabbi Joseph Raksin was shot dead by two young assailants in full view of his son-in-law and grandsons while walking to Shabbat services at Bais Menachem synagogue in North Miami. It is alleged by Miami Dade police that it may have been a botched robbery attempt. The irony is that orthodox Jews carry no money on Shabbat. One of the assailants fled on a bicycle, while the other, on foot. Miami police are endeavoring to track down the alleged perpetrators. Last week an Orthodox synagogue, in the same vicinity, Torah V’Emunah, was vandalized with red swastikas with the word “Hamas”. After yesterday’s murder of Rabbi Raksin , that led a Jewish community activist to suggest there may have been a connection to the current Operation Protective Edge pitting Israel against renewed rocketing by terrorist groups Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
The Miami Herald noted police and ADL comments about Rabbi Raksin’s murder as well as the shock of family and the Jewish community in a report, “Two men sought in fatal shooting of Orthodox rabbi in Northeast Miami-Dade”:
“At this time there is no indication of this being a hate crime,” said Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Elena Hernandez in a statement.
She said police are searching for two young male suspects, one of whom may have fled on a bicycle. The other may have run from the area on foot.
Late Saturday, Hava Holzhauer, the Anti-Defamation League Florida Regional Director, whose organization has been in close contact with Miami-Dade homicide investigators, said the crime “appears to be a robbery that went badly.”
“Currently no evidence has been brought to light that it was motivated by anti-Semitism,” said Holzhauer.
Said Holzhauer: “This is a terrible tragedy. While the motivation for this crime is still being investigated, nothing can justify the killing of an innocent man walking to his place of worship to pray on his holy day.”
Miami-Dade police have not commented on whether the shooting was connected to a robbery attempt on Raksin.
Late Saturday, members of Bais Menachem gathered outside the synagogue to talk to reporters about the shooting incident.
Raksin was walking ahead of his grandsons and son-in-law when he was shot, said Rabbi Moshe Druin.
“We are in utter shock,” Druin said.
Druin said community members ruled out a possibility of robbery because Orthodox Jewish men do not carry any money or possessions on Saturdays, the community’s Sabbath day.
“There hasn’t been a robbery on Sabbath for the past 35 years,” Druin said.
“It definitely is an anomaly,” Perutz Pinhas, another community member said of the shooting
However, note the comments by a Jewish community activist placing Rabbi Raksin’s murder in the context of local vandalism:
Another local Jewish community leader, Brian Siegal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Miami and Broward Regional Office, said he believes Raksin’s shooting may be connected to the recent act of vandalism at the nearby Torah V’Emunah, an Orthodox synagogue, 1000 N.E. 174th St.
On July 28, police reported that swastikas were spray-painted on the front pillars of a Northeast Miami-Dade synagogue, which has left the local Jewish community on edge, especially amid the heightened tension between Israel and Palestinians over the conflict in Gaza.
Said Siegal: “Our deepest condolences to the [Raksin] family for this tragic loss. We are confident the police will take the matter seriously and will give them time to investigate. Coming so soon and so close to the synagogue that was vandalized last week with swastikas and pro-Hamas graffiti, obviously we’re suspicious that it’s linked, but that remains to be seen.”
If the two assailants are apprehended and interrogated, we may find out what the motivation was for the shooting death of Rabbi Raksin. Given the attire of observant Orthodox Jewish men, it would be hard to mistake them.
Rabbi Raksin’s death comes on a weekend when Stand for Israel rallies are taking place in the Southeast on Sunday August 10th in Northern Alabama, Pensacola in Northwest Florida and on Monday, August 11th in Orlando, raising heightened security concerns. We add our deepest rachmonis (compassion in Hebrew) to the extended family of the late Rabbi Raksin z”l.
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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. The featured photo is of members of Bais Menachem Synagogue. North Miami-Dade, August 9, 2014. Source: Miami-Herald.