A rabbi from Brooklyn, visiting family in Miami, is walking to temple on the Sabbath. He is suddenly accosted by two men and shot to death on a quiet street in Northeast Miami-Dade. Rabbi Joseph Raksin’s murder is a tragedy compounded by the brazen and apparently cold-blooded nature of the crime.
Random criminality across the country is all too common in urban settings, including Miami. Every crime deserves to be condemned. Every homicide is an affront to civility, regardless of the circumstances and the identity of the victim. This one is particularly frightening, though, because weeks of fighting in Gaza and rocket attacks on Israel have once again given rise to a nauseating wave of anti-Semitism around the world.
In Miami-Dade, swastikas were spray-painted on the front pillars of Torah V’Emunah, an Orthodox synagogue a few days ago, putting the surrounding community — where Rabbi Raksin would later be murdered — on edge. Meanwhile, in Miami Beach, two cars were vandalized in what appeared to be anti-Jewish hate crimes.
It is not surprising, thus, that the murder of Rabbi Raksin has sent shudders through the Jewish community in South Florida. Local sensitivities have been heightened by the open displays of anti-Semitism around the world and here at home sparked by the fighting in Gaza.
Was the rabbi’s murder a hate crime? Absent evidence produced by a police investigation, no one can be sure if his killing meets the legal definition. But Rabbi Phineas Weberman, who spoke to reporters at Miami-Dade Police headquarters on Monday, cut through the fog of words with rabbinical clarity. Speaking of the unknown shooter, he said: “He certainly didn’t do it because he loved him.”
Local Jewish officials are right to be worried. The vandalism and its implied threats bring anti-Semitism to this community’s doorstep. “Anti-Semtism is a disease other people suffer from and Jews are victimized by it,” said Jacob Solomon, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.
That it happened here in South Florida should worry all community leaders because South Florida is a patch-quilt of diversity, sewn from many threads and hued with many colors. An attack on any single community is an attack on the very idea and nature of diversity. An attack on one is an attack on all.
Thus, all share a responsibility for being vigilant against the rise of anti-Semitism by condemning every instance and display of this especially vile and persistent form of hatred.
The motive of the killer or killers is something for police to determine. The investigation must be allowed to work itself out before attaching labels to what is already a horrible event, but police should make the case a priority.
Hate has no borders, as the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Hava Holzhauer, said after the vandalism incidents were reported. Its seeds are everywhere, even here, but it must not be allowed to find fertile ground.