By Larry Gordon
They were two homicides, days and worlds apart.
In North Miami Beach, Florida, this past Shabbos, Yosef Raksin set out on a walk to a nearby shul. What can be more routine, pleasant, and uneventful? He was visiting his
children and grandchildren on a beautiful post-Tishah B’Av Shabbos Nachamu. What precisely happened after that is still a mystery. Witnesses said he was set upon by two young black men. All that we know about the encounter is that a moment later, Rabbi Raksin was shot, and he died.
I recognize Raksin from my early days in yeshiva in Brooklyn. I know his brothers and always recognized his father when I used to see him on Kingston Avenue. Raksin is survived by his elderly mother. I knew the family, but it has been many years since I explored that connection. One sister and her family reside in Woodmere. There are a lot of boys in the family, and I do not know them all.
The reaction to the murder was concern, but also a stunned silence. We accept events of this nature, despite their ambiguousness and senselessness, as heavenly decrees. We believe in and trust Hashem. The police in Miami have so far said only that in their estimation it was not a hate crime but rather an event of a criminal nature that has yet to be solved. Our community is quietly concerned that it might be an anti-Semitic hate crime. That angle is being looked into, as much as the authorities are hoping that it not be classified as such, and that the motive was simply robbery.
But in this day and age, what criminal does not know that Orthodox Jews do not carry money with them on Shabbos? Maybe that is only common knowledge in New York and that message has not yet reached the miscreants out there. But, considering that there were swastikas painted last week on the door of a nearby shul in Miami, there is room to be doubtful in this case. In the meantime, we await the findings of the authorities.
The story in Ferguson, Missouri, outside of St. Louis, is far different. There, over the last weekend, an 18-year-old black man was killed by police. Local authorities say that the young man had pushed a police officer and was trying to reach for the cop’s gun. Other stories from witnesses contradict that of the police officer. As a reaction to the killing, there has been rioting in the streets deep into the night. Looters broke into stores that sell liquor, electronics, sporting goods, tires, and anything else, and emptied them. Apparently it is a tradition, but what is the connection between being unhappy about a perceived injustice and committing wanton robbery and causing mayhem in the streets?
Al Sharpton, the noted activist who exploits these unfortunate situations for profit, has already arrived in Missouri to add his slanted opinion to the process. Rest assured that it will be his best advice that the Missouri police department pay the victim’s family several million dollars, of which he will take a chunk for himself. It’s a tragedy, but also a fairly successful business for Mr. Sharpton.
So the rioting continues near St. Louis, while in the Miami Jewish community the debate goes on. When asked about increased patrols of Orthodox neighborhoods, Alex Wercberger, the Jewish liaison to the Nassau County Police Department, said that police have stepped up patrols of neighborhood in the Five Towns with a focus on shuls ever since the war in Gaza began some five weeks ago. He says that right now police here in New York believe that the killing of Rabbi Raksin was a robbery gone bad and not related to the war or specifically an anti-Jewish crime.
Deputy Inspector William Wynn of the 101st Precinct in Far Rockaway says that there has not been any communication from police headquarters in the aftermath of the murder in Florida. He did say that since the war started between Hamas and Israel on July 8, he instituted round-the-clock patrols of shuls and yeshivas in the community. In a patrol that he called “House of Worship Auto,” he said two officers in one car check on local Jewish institutions at least twice every shift. To date, the inspector said, there have not been any unusual incidents that he could relate to the events in Israel or last week in Florida.
There is a sense, however, amongst a number of Jewish activist groups, that there is much more at play here than anyone involved is admitting. One community source said that police in Florida and New York are in communication and they believe that the murder was much more than just a robbery. Raksin was a visible target as he walked to shul in his long black Shabbos coat and tallis. More than anything at this juncture, there is concern of a police cover-up in Florida, as well as an interest in dispelling any panic.
On Tuesday, President Obama had a comment on the Missouri killing but has not said anything about the murder of a Jew in Florida. The president’s comments in these situations, over the years of his presidency, have proven unhelpful and one-sided, and the hope here was that he would remain silent and let the police do their investigating.
Sharpton and race-baiters like him get involved so that they can prejudice the outcome of any investigation. They want the officer that did the shooting off the force, indicted for murder, and placed on trial. In addition, you can rest assured that if the outcome of the trial is not “guilty”—with a long prison sentence attached (and a sizable payment)—Sharpton & Co. will be encouraging more riots.
In the meantime, there is quiet in the Jewish communities of North Miami Beach and Crown Heights. But there is also concern as attacks just like this one seem to be proliferating, particularly in European cities. A news report says that a mourner’s car had a swastika painted on it during the Florida part of the funeral. It is hard to believe that there was no security or cameras functioning on the street to aid the police in their investigation.
Regardless of the outcome of the Florida investigation, there will be no rioting or looting in the middle of the night. A tragic murder is not viewed as an income opportunity. This was a shocking assault, with all of us worldwide possibly intended as the targets. Today, a family and a community continue grieving and remain in shock. We do so with quiet concern that this was not just a robbery, despite the reassurance to date by law enforcement.
The investigation continues—but at the same time, interest in the case will wane as the authorities delay and time goes by. The circumstances surrounding this murder are staggering. A man was walking to shul but did not get there. ϖ
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at email@example.com.