MIAMI — Hundreds of people gathered Sunday to mourn the loss of a grandfather, father and rabbi who was gunned down on his way to synagogue the day before.
As soon as the hearse pulled up in front of Bais Menachem Chabad with the body of Rabbi Joseph Raksin inside, at least a dozen religious men gathered in prayer. Several minutes later, dozens more joined in.
The Brooklyn rabbi, who was visiting his family in Northeast Miami-Dade, had a muffin for breakfast with his relatives on Saturday before leaving the home to pray, his son-in-law said Sunday.
“He came here just to see his grandkids,” said the son-in-law, who identified himself as Izzy but declined to give his last name. The rabbi left the home about five minutes before the rest of the family.
When the son-in-law was on his way to temple, he noticed a commotion on the street but didn’t know his father-in-law had been shot. When Izzy arrived at the temple and didn’t see his father-in-law there or at another nearby synagogue, he said he felt something was wrong,
On Sunday, police shut down busy 10th Avenue to allow people to mourn in the street.
At 2 p.m., as the hearse left the synagogue for Fort Lauderdale airport for the return of the rabbi’s body to Brooklyn, hundreds of people walked behind the black car as it inched its way down the street.
More people were expected later Sunday at a rally planned for a nearby Miami-Dade police station.
Miami-Dade police executives are planning a news conference today about the case.
Rabbi Raksin was walking eastbound on Northeast 175th Street and Eighth Court at about 9 a.m. Saturday when he was confronted by two young men. Following an altercation, Rabbi Raksin was shot by one of the men, police said.
It’s unclear how many shots were fired at Rabbi Raksin. But the New York rabbi’s critical wounds prompted authorities to airlift him to the Ryder Trauma Center, where he later died.
The community is offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
The shooting took place in an area of unincorporated Northeast Miami-Dade near North Miami Beach, where swastikas found painted on a local synagogue last month have worried local Jewish leaders.
“At this time there is no indication of this being a hate crime,” said Elena Hernandez, Miami-Dade police spokeswoman, in a statement.
She said police are searching for two young male suspects, one of whom may have fled on a bicycle. The other may have run from the area.
Late Saturday, Hava Holzhauer, the Anti-Defamation League Florida Regional director, whose organization has been in close contact with Miami-Dade homicide investigators, said the crime “appears to be a robbery that went badly.”
“Currently no evidence has been brought to light that it was motivated by anti-Semitism,” Ms. Holzhauer said.
Said Ms. Holzhauer: “This is a terrible tragedy. While the motivation for this crime is still being investigated, nothing can justify the killing of an innocent man walking to his place of worship to pray on his holy day.”
Miami-Dade police have not commented on whether the shooting was connected to a robbery attempt on Rabbi Raksin.
Yona Lunger, a local Jewish community activist and member of the Shmira Patrol — a neighborhood watch group — confirmed to the Miami Herald late Saturday that Rabbi Raksin was an Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn who was in South Florida to visit his granddaughter and other relatives.
Rabbi Raksin was on his way to Bais Menachem, 1005 NE 172nd Ter., when he was shot, said Mr. Lunger, who spoke to one witness who told him that — contrary to what Miami-Dade police reported — Rabbi Raksin had no altercation with the two young men. He said the witness, whom he did not identify, told him that Rabbi Raksin was shot immediately after the two approached him on Northeast 175th Street.Florida - New York City - New York - Brooklyn - Miami