Shuly Labkowsi, the daughter of Reb Yosef Raksin HYD, spoke out on Motzai Shabbos, calling the murder of her father a hate crime and demanded that police investigate it as such.
A short walk to temple on the Sabbath ended in tragedy for a rabbi visiting South Florida when, police said, two men shot and killed the religious leader in broad daylight, triggering outrage and calls for justice from the local Jewish community and concerned neighbors alike.
A shell casing and crime scene tape marked the area where, police said, 60-year-old Joseph Raksin was shot. According to investigators, the rabbi was walking along Northeast 175th Street and Eighth Court around 9 a.m. on Saturday when two men approached him. Police said an altercation ensued, and one of the men pulled out a gun and shot the rabbi.
An area resident said his son heard the gunshot. “He told the detectives he thought he heard one shot,” said Louis. “[He] didn’t see anything.”
Police said the subjects fled the scene, one on foot and the other one on a bicycle.
Good Samaritan Jean Louis Denis said he ran out to help Raksin as soon as he heard the gunshot. “I talked a little bit to him; he gave me his name, that he was from New York,” he said, “and he told me that two males were the people that did this.”
Raksin was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he later died.
Police said Raksin was heading to Bais Menachem Chabad, a synagogue located a few blocks away, on the Sabbath, a day of religious observance for the Jewish Orthodox community.
The rabbi, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., was in town visiting his daughter and grandchildren, who live in the neighborhood. “He came just for a vacation, just came Thursday night,” said Raksin’s daughter, Shully Lepokovski. “He came for a week’s vacation. He was going to be here a few days, then go to West Palm [Beach] to my other sister.”
For Miami-Dade’s Jewish community, the shooting marked a disturbing and heartbreaking start to Sabbath. “This has a big effect in the community,” said Joseph Waks, a friend of Raksin and his family. “A rabbi [shot] walking to temple. I’ve got two beautiful children. I walk to temple with them every Sabbath in Miami Beach. It’s devastating.”
“That’s unfortunate. It’s very sad to hear it,” said Rich, who lives near the scene of the shooting. “That’s about the most extreme thing that’s happened in the 10 years I’ve been here.”
Denis said he is saddened by the tragic outcome. “The neighborhood [is comprised of] really nice people, and I feel very, very sad that something can happen here and to people who are nice and peaceful people.”
Miami-Dade Police said the shooting does not appear to be a hate crime. However, Lepokovski vehemently disagreed with the investigators’ assessment, indicating local law enforcement has been unable to keep her neighborhood safe. “They’re not taking care of this neighborhood as much as other places, and it has to stop. It really has to stop,” said Shully Lepokovski.
Raksin’s daughter said she believes her father was targeted because of his religious affiliation. “I believe it was a hate crime,” said Lepokovski. “[He was killed] simply because he’s a Jew.”
A witness described the suspects as younger looking men, one wearing an orange shirt and the other a yellow shirt. “They do not care about the lives of other people,” said Lepokovski.
The Anti-Defamation League of Florida issued a statement expressing their condolences. It reads: “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.”
ADL officials said they trust the Miami-Dade Police Department, and they hope they’re able to find the men responsible for Raksin’s shooting.
“There’s a really dark world out there,” said Waks. “Lighting a candle can really do a tremendous amount of good, and that’s what we are going to do in his memory and, G-d willing, we’re going to try and spread the love.”
As of Sunday night, the suspects remained at large.
If you have any information on this shooting, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward.