Thousands of mourners gathered at a funeral procession in Brooklyn Monday for an Orthodox rabbi who was shot and killed as he walked to a Miami temple over the weekend.
A crowd surrounded the hearse on a blocked-off street as it pulled up outside the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters for the funeral of Rabbi Joseph Raksin. The 60-year-old rabbi was described as a peace-loving man.
Raksin was in Miami visiting relatives when police said he was confronted by two men and shot while walking to a synagogue on Saturday.
Jean-Louis Denis heard the gunshot and ran to help.
“I told him my name, I told him to stay quiet and that everything was going to be fine and unfortunately it was different,” said Denis.
Police said the shooting appeared to be a robbery gone badly.
“It would appear, initially, early observations that it could be perhaps a robbery,” Hector Llevat, head of the homicide bureau for Miami-Dade police, said Monday. “This gentleman was an observant, religious man and so information is that he did not or would not have a wallet or anything of value on him at that moment.”
But family members think it was a hate crime, pointing to the fact that just days ago, someone painted a swastika outside a temple not far from where the shooting happened.
“There’s a lot of anti-Semitism going on in that community, especially what happened with the synagogue there a few days ago,” the victim’s son-in-law Leib Ezagui said.
Authorities said there was no indication the shooting was a hate crime.
“There are no indications that it was a hate crime or related to a hate crime, however we are not closing that door and we’re not ruling anything out,” Llevat said.
In Brooklyn, the rabbi’s wife is now being comforted by friends and family and while many in community want answers on why he was killed.
“Let’s hope they find the killer or killers and bring them to justice,” said congregant Yaakov Stern.
Police are searching for two young suspects. One was apparently on a bicycle and the other on foot.
The Anti-Defamation League has been working with investigators.