As reported by the Miami Herald on Monday, Aug. 11, the Miami-Dade Police Department held its first official briefing on the shooting death of Orthodox Rabbi Joseph Raksin on Saturday, Aug. 9.
The Brooklyn, New York, native was walking to the Bais Menachem Chabad synagogue in northeast Miami-Dade, Florida, when, according to witnesses, two young black men — one in a yellow shirt and one in an orange shirt — approached the 60-year-old Raksin and reportedly shot him. They then left the area, one on foot and one on a bicycle. Raksin was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, where he died.
At the press conference, Major Hector Llevat, who heads the Miami-Dade Police Department’s homicide bureau, said, “Until we have additional information we won’t know with certainty what the motive was for the crime. Right now there are no indications that it was a hate crime or related to a hate crime, however, we are not closing that door, and we are not ruling anything out.”
Some reports have labeled the crime a “botched robbery,” although the rabbi, who was visiting his daughter and her family, who lived in the area, was not carrying a wallet or valuables with him at the time of the shooting.
But, as Llevat pointed out, “[That] does not rule out that it could have been a robbery, because that would assume that the perpetrator knew that.”
According to a report from the CBS Miami affiliate, Hava Holzhauer, the Florida Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League released a statement Saturday night urging people not to rush to judgment, saying in part, “A 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.”
The statement was likely referring to recent vandalism incidents only a couple of blocks from where Rabbi Raskin was shot, in which swastikas and the word “Hamas” were spray-painted on the pillars of the Congregation Torah Ve’emunah synagogue.
In addition, the week before, residents of Meridian Avenue, a predominately Jewish Miami Beach neighborhood, went to their cars on the Saturday Sabbath to find them covered in eggs and cheese, with the words “Hamas” and “Jew” written on the windows.
While police cannot connect the two vandalism incidents — nor can they be connected to the Raksin shooting — the Herald reports that on Sunday, Aug. 10, while a Northeast-Dade rabbi and his wife were attending a memorial service for Raksin outside Bais Menachem, a swastika and a military decoration called an Iron Cross were etched onto their car.
Raksin’s body was flown back to Brooklyn for the funeral, reported by the New York Daily News as having been scheduled for Monday morning at Shomrei Haddas on 13th Ave. in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
As outlined at CrownHeightsInfo.com, Raksin (whose first name is also spelled Yosef), is survived by his wife, Faigy (who was running a summer camp in Detroit at the time of her husband’s death), and six children, living in the New York area, in Florida and in Montreal, Canada, and seven grandchildren.
According to a report with several pictures at the the New York News Website, Raksin’s wife and at least some of his children and grandchildren were among the mourners at the Monday service and procession, which included men reading the Psalms outside the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic headquarters on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. A friend of the rabbi, Chaim Landa, is quoted as saying, “There must be thousands of people here.”
The report says Raksin was laid to rest at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, New York.
Among those speaking at the police press conference in Florida was Rabbi Phineas Weberman, described as the MDPD chaplain.
He said, “In the 19th Psalm, King David recounts his difficulties and tribulations, and there’s one sentence of encouragement ‘The Lord, my God, will enlighten my darkness.’ We just experienced a very dark day this past Saturday, with the murder of Rabbi Yosef Raksin. We are coming out of this darkness, and the Lord God will enlighten our darkness.’
“He has been laid to his rest, Joseph Raksin went to his eternal rest, and we should come out of this darkness not with despair, not with lack of hope, not with hate, but with courage and confidence that the evil will be vanquished and good will prevail. The darkness will become enlightened.”
Police are asking anyone with information to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers, at 305-471-TIPS.