MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Concern is growing in a Northeast Miami-Dade community after a rabbi was gunned down while walking to temple in the Sabbath.
Monday night, the community held a vigil for Rabbi Joseph Raksin.
Many people in the primarily orthodox neighborhood believe the killing was a hate crime and residents say they plan to arm themselves.
“There are a lot of people who live here that are very much on edge right now and are concerned about walking around on their own, especially with young children,” said resident Andy Markell.
Rabbi Raksin was visiting his daughter and son-in-law from Brooklyn to celebrate his 60th birthday when police say he was killed in the street by two men. Authorities said there was an altercation and Raksin was shot.
His son-in-law and grandchildren were walking just blocks behind him.
“I came after the fact,” said Leib Esagui. “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.”
At a news conference Monday, police offered no new details of the altercation and asked the community to come forward with any information.
“We understand the grief, the anxiety and the anguish that comes from a cowardly act like this and we share in this community’s urgency to find the perpetrators of this act,” Miami-Dade Police Maj. Hector Llevat said.
“I can’t walk to my own temple on a Saturday morning, this is why everyone is upset,” said resident Yona Lunger.
A few weeks ago, a nearby synagogue was vandalized with a swastika, and the word “Hamas” written underneath it.
Then on Sunday, a swastika and German Iron Cross were etched into a BMW which belongs to a local rabbi who was attending a service for Raksin.
“It terrified me, my family,” said Ruth Burns, a mother with young children. “I feel it’s related to the shooting, to the war in Israel. I fear it’s all connected.”
Police said they were investigating.
“It’s a frightening feeling,” said resident Chaim Berkowitz.
Berkowitz is now installing security cameras at Bais Menachem Chabad, the temple Raksin was walking to when he was murdered.
Berkowitz told CBS4’s Gaby Fleischman at least 100 members of the congregation will carry guns with them to Shul for protection.
While investigators have said there is no indication yet that Rabbi Raksin’s killing was motivated by hate, many in the Jewish community believe he was targeted because of his religion.
“Why, why is this not a hate crime? Why? What is happening here? Is this normal?” asked Yona Lunger.
“Any time you have a swastika painted and Hamas written on a synagogue and then a Jew gets killed, yea in my mind it’s a hate crime,” said Berkowitz. “I think this man was singled out because he was Jewish.”
“In my heart of hearts I would think so, especially with what’s going on throughout the world–Europe, Israel, Middle East–there’s really no other way of drawing a conclusion besides being a hate crime,” agreed Andy Markell.