A day after murdered Rabbi Joseph Raksin was laid to rest in Brooklyn, several community leaders continued to question the motive behind his slay Tuesday, despite the Miami police's insistence that this was a robbery gone wrong.
Raksin was shot to death at about 9 a.m. on Saturday as he walked to a Miami synagogue to celebrate the Shabbat services, police there said. He was shot after getting into an altercation with two men, one on foot and one on a bicycle, police said.
There are no signs the shooting was a hate crime, a Miami police spokeswoman said Tuesday. The department hasn't ruled that out, either, she said.
But Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents Borough Park, said the "documented increase in anti-Semitic incidents" proves this case deserves a second look.
"This certainly could be more than a simple robbery and we shouldn't be hasty to dismiss the likelihood that this murder was indeed a hate crime until there is hard police evidence to the contrary," Hikind said in a statement Tuesday. "Rabbi Raksin was clearly identifiable as a Jew -- as a religious Jew -- when he was shot and killed."
Raksin was in Miami visiting his daughter and grandchildren there. He was celebrating his 60th birthday, said Yona Lunger, a community activist with Chesed Of South Florida.
Raksin's daughter, Shully Lepokovski, told the local Florida Fox affiliate that she believed her father was the victim of a hate crime. Her beliefs have since been echoed throughout the Jewish community both in Miami and Brooklyn.
"There are those who are quick to dismiss the possibility of an anti-Jewish motive," said Barry Sugar, director of the New York-based Jewish Leadership Council, in a statement. "The least we can do for a murdered man and a mourning family is to follow the facts until the murderers are caught and the true motive established."
Sugar said swastikas were found spray painted on a synagogue near where Raksin was killed about two weeks earlier.