NORTHEAST MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) – Sadness lingered over a Jewish community in Northeast Miami-Dade Sunday as friends, family and community members came together to mourn the loss of an Orthodox rabbi who was murdered.
The crowd gathered at Bais Menachem Chabad as Joesph Raksin’s body was brought to the site inside a hearse.
“There’s a lot of shock, there’s a lot of fear and a lot of unknown,” said rabbi Donny Arkush. “A lot of people are just overwhelmed by what has happened.”
Rabbi Raksin, 60, was visiting family from New York when he was shot during Sabbath.
Witnesses said Raksin was walking toward a synagogue at the time of the shooting. His son-in-law and grandchildren were several blocks behind him and heard the shooting.
“I came after the fact,” said Izzy, who did not want to give his last name. “Saw my father-in-law on the ground, my kids saw him on the ground. Thank God they didn’t know it was him at the time.”
Police said two young men are the subjects of the investigation, but they have not been identified.
They were seen in the community and leaving the area of NE 175th Street near NE 8th Court following the shooting around 9:00 a.m.
Only one of the men pulled the trigger, police said.
Witnesses said Raksin was attempting to speak to people at the scene while he lay on the ground. He was rushed to Ryder Trauma Center where he later died.
Raksin is from Brooklyn, New York and was a member of Chabad Crown Heights. He was in South Florida spending time with his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren celebrating his 60th birthday, family members said.
“He was just a sweet, good man,” said Leib Esagui, one of Raksin’s sons-in-law.
The rabbi’s body was taken to Fort Lauderdale International Airport Sunday afternoon as dozens of religious men at Bais Menachem Chabad followed behind the hearse.
Friends and family held a vigil for Raksin late Saturday night to honor Raksin and Monday morning, Miami-Dade police will hold a press conference to talk about the case.
Even through his grief, Raksin’s son-in-law, Izzy, said he feels incredible support from the community in South Florida and around the world.
“Pain, I don’t feel hate, I don’t. I want to see good coming out from this,” he said.
But there is also outrage in the Jewish community.
“I can’t walk to my own temple on a Saturday morning, this is why everybody’s upset,” said Yona Lunger, a community activist.
There is fear and frustration in the primarily Orthodox neighborhood where Raksin was killed.
A couple of weeks ago, a nearby synagogue was vandalized with swastikas and many in the community feel the rabbi was targeted for his religion.
“He had no money, he wasn’t a fighter, he was a very quiet person,” said Menachen Katz, Raksin’s nephew. “If someone came and said, ‘Give me your money’, he would say ‘Take anything you want, take my jacket, take everything,’ he would never run, he wasn’t that type of person.”
“Why, why is this not a hate crime?” asked Lunger. “Why? What is happening here, is this normal?
Police said Saturday it does not appear the crime was a hate crime, but have not said what the motive might have been.
The Anti-Defamation League released a statement late by Hava Holzhauer Saturday night asking the community to hold-off thinking the killing was a hate crime. Part of the statement read: “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.”
A few dozen people gathered in front of a Miami-Dade police station Sunday afternoon demanding answers. Some said they’re hearing different stories from witnesses and police.
“We’re not here to fight the police department, we’re here to support the police department. We’re here to tell you we’re going to watch every single part of this investigation, but do a thorough investigation,” explained Lunger.
Family and friends also gathered in New York where the rabbi will be laid to rest. Despite the grief and frustration, family and friends across the country hope some good can come from tragedy.
“It’s a big loss and we’re hoping that people will be better from it. Learn that life has value,” said Izzy. Meir Zigaelbom, a friend of the family added, “The Jewish traditional answer is for every act of evil, return in ten acts of goodness and kindness.”
Police have not made a connection between the swatiskas painted on the synagogue a couple of weeks ago and the recent murder.
The subjects in Saturday’s murder have not been located. One may have been on a bike and the other possibly on foot, police said.
The community is offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
Anyone with information is urged to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS.
Read more: Rabbi Shot While Walking Toward Synagogue