Police in Miami, Florida are searching for two suspects after a 60-year-old rabbi from Brooklyn, New York, was shot while making his way to a local synagogue on Saturday morning.
According to the Miami Herald, the victim, Rabbi Joseph Raksin, was confronted by two young men while walking down a street around 9:00 a.m. local time. Following an altercation, he was shot by one of the two young men, police said.
It is unclear how many shots were fired at Rabbi Raksin, the report said, but his critical wounds prompted authorities to immediately airlift him to the Ryder Trauma Center, where he later died.
Police and local Jewish community leaders believe the shooting was made during a random robbery attempt, according to the Miami Herald.
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 Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Elena Hernandez in a statement quoted by the newspaper.
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 on foot.
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,” she told the Miami Herald.
“This is a terrible tragedy,” said Holzhauer. “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.
However, a local Jewish community leader, Brian Siegal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Miami and Broward Regional Office, told the newspaper he believes Rabbi Raksin’s shooting may be connected to the recent act of vandalism at a nearby synagogue.
On July 28, police reported that swastikas were spray-painted on the front pillars of a Northeast Miami-Dade synagogue, which has left the local Jewish community on edge, especially amid the heightened tension over the conflict in Gaza.
“Our deepest condolences to the [Raksin] family for this tragic loss. We are confident the police will take the matter seriously and will give them time to investigate. Coming so soon and so close to the synagogue that was vandalized last week with swastikas and pro-Hamas graffiti, obviously we’re suspicious that it’s linked, but that remains to be seen,” Siegel said.