ADL Says Slaying of Miami Rabbi Appears to Be Robbery Gone Bad, AJC, Others Suspect Link to Hate Crimes
Two major Jewish groups voiced opposing suspicions over the shooting and murder of a 60-year-old rabbi on Saturday morning as he made his way to a North Miami Beach synagogue.
Joseph Raksin was shot by two assailants at 9 a.m. as he walked eastbound on Northeast 175th Street, according to Miami-Dade police. The victim was airlifted to the Ryder Trauma Center and died shortly after arriving. He is survived by his wife Faigy and 6 children.
Police are searching for the suspects, two young black males, one of which may have fled on a bicycle.
In a statement on the murder, Hava Holzhauer, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Florida Regional Director, condemned the “terrible tragedy,” adding, “At this time, it appears to be a robbery that went badly. Currently no evidence has been brought to light that it was motivated by anti-Semitism.”
“While our community is on high alert due to recent anti-Semitic incidents that have coincided with hostilities in the Middle East, we must be careful not to assume this was a hate-motivated crime unless or until such information is discovered and released by law enforcement,” she said.
The ADL’s assessment was backed up by a local police spokeswoman who said, “At this time there is no indication of this being a hate crime.”
But in an interview with the Miami Herald, Brian Siegal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Miami and Broward Regional Office cited recent anti-Semitic vandalism in the area as being possibly connected to the crime.
After expressing condolences to the rabbi’s family, Siegal said, “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.”
While police reported that an altercation had taken place between the assailants and the victim, Yona Lunger, a local Jewish community activist and member of the Shmira Patrol, told the Miami Herald that the victim “had no altercation with the two young men.” He said a witness, whom he did not identify, told him that “Raksin was shot immediately after the two approached him.”
Speaking to The Algemeiner on Saturday night a member of the victim’s family backed up Lunger’s version of events, saying he believed the attack to be motivated by hate. “There was no struggle, no nothing,” he said.
One Facebook, activist and author Melanie Notkin pointed out that religious Jews are known not to carry money or valuables on Saturdays, increasing the likelihood that the motive was not related to theft.
“Well it probably wasn’t attempted robbery of a religious Jew since they are widely known not to carry money or electronics on the Sabbath,” she said.
In its statement the ADL added, “nothing can justify the killing of an innocent man walking to his place of worship to pray on his holy day. We appreciate the professionalism that the Miami-Dade Police Department has shown in securing all the evidence surrounding the crime and assuring that this investigation remains an exceptionally high priority. Let us hope that the culprits are swiftly apprehended and brought to justice.”
The neighborhood where the incident took place has a sizable Jewish community and there are 11 synagogues in the area, according to reports.