A day after a well-known Brooklyn rabbi was gunned down on his way to temple in Miami over the weekend, community members there gathered to question the motivation behind the shooting.
A Miami-Dade Police Department spokeswoman said there are no signs the shooting was a hate crime. But that didn't stop dozens from gathering near a Miami police station Sunday to question if Rabbi Joseph Raksin, who was in Miami to celebrate his 60th birthday with his daughter, was targeted for his religion, said Yona Lunger, a community activist with Chesed Of South Florida.
Raksin, of Crown Heights, was shot to death about 9 a.m. as he walked to synagogue for Shabbat services, Miami police said. He was shot after getting into an altercation with two men, one on foot and one on a bicycle, police said. Raksin was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital Trauma Center where he died.
"The community is very upset. The community believes it is a hate crime," said Lunger, who spoke from yesterday's rally.
Raksin's daughter, Shully Lepokovski, told the local Fox affiliate that her father was the victim of a hate crime. "I haven't heard someone was shot just like that," she said. "[Police] are not taking care of this neighborhood as much as other places. And it has to stop."
Hava Holzhauer, the Florida regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the shooting appears to be "a robbery that went badly."
"This is a terrible tragedy ... nothing can justify the killing of an innocent man walking to his place of worship to pray on his holy day," Holzhauer said in a statement. "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."