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2014-08-15 digital edition

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


August 15, 2014  RSS feed
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Text: T T T

Rabbi’s slaying, rash of anti-Semitic vandalism in Miami spark concern

JTA and Jewish Press staff

Congregation Torah V’Emunah, an Orthodox congregation in North Miami Beach, was spraypainted with the word “Hamas” and images of swastikas in late July. Congregation Torah V’Emunah, an Orthodox congregation in North Miami Beach, was spraypainted with the word “Hamas” and images of swastikas in late July. The murder of an Orthodox rabbi, vandalism to the car of a mourner attending a memorial service for the rabbi, and two other acts of anti-Semitic vandalism in the Miami, all as conflict raged and ebbed between Israel and Hamas, triggered heightened security concerns not just in South Florida, but in the Tampa Bay area, too.

“These indeed are troubling times for all Jewish people. … It’s as important as ever that we remain vigilant and very aware of our surroundings,” said Mark Segel, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties in an email to local Jewish institutions. “The Federation is committed to keeping you informed and ensuring that, as a community, we’re doing all we can to ensure the continuity of Jewish life and culture.”

Rabbi Joseph Raksin Rabbi Joseph Raksin The latest event prompting calls for vigilance came Sunday, Aug. 10, when a mourner attending a memorial service in North Miami Beach for murdered Rabbi Joseph Raksin had his car defaced with anti-Semitic symbols. A swastika and Iron Cross were etched on a BMW owned by the mourner, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. The Miami-Dade Police Department is investigating the vandalism.

The service at the Bais Menachem Chabad synagogue was held a day after Rabbi Raksin was shot and killed while was on his way to Sabbath morning services there. Rabbi Raksin, 60, of Brooklyn, NY, was in South Florida visiting his daughter and her family. Initial police reports labeled the murder a robbery-gonebad, but later officials said they would not rule out other motives such as a hate crime.

On Tuesday, Aug. 12, hundreds gathered in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn for the funeral procession for Rabbi Raksin, a father of six who was a leader in the Orthodox community.

At a news conference on the same day, Miami-Dade Police Chief Alfredo Ramirez said his department is “utilizing all its resources to apprehend the perpetrators” in the shooting, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Police said they were looking for two men who walked away after shooting Rabbi Raksin. One was wearing a yellow shirt; the other had on an orange shirt.

Maj. Hector Llevat of the Miami- Dade Police Department’s homicide bureau said the investigation is in its preliminary stages and the motive is unknown.

“Right now there are no indications it’s a hate crime or related to a hate crime,” Llevat said. “However, we’re not closing that door and we’re not ruling anything out.”

Members of Rabbi Raksin’s family have said they believe the killing was a hate crime.

Miami’s Jewish community is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Rabbi Raksin’s assailants, according to the Miami Herald.

Rabbi Raksin, 60, had arrived on Aug. 7 in Miami for a weeklong visit with his daughter and her family, the New York Post reported.

Police said Raksin was shot several times following an altercation, though witnesses told NBC reporters that there was no altercation and the assailants were African- American males.

The slaying of Rabbi Raksin came just days after two acts of anti-Semitic vandalism in the area that prompted a statement of outrage and condemnation from the Florida regional Anti Defamation League (ADL).

The ADL reported that in late July, Congregation Torah V’Emunah in North Miami Beach, an Orthodox synagogue within close proximity to other synagogues, was spraypainted with the word “Hamas” and images of swastikas on the columns that frame its front entrance – a location potentially selected for high visibility and greater impact.

The ADL said that around the same time, “a Jewish family discovered that their two cars were completely canvassed. One car was covered from top to bottom with eggs; the other had the word ‘Jew’ smeared in cream cheese on the side window, and the back window had the word ‘Hamas’ smeared in cream cheese. The family’s cars both have Jewish-identifiable bumper stickers.”

In the wake of Rabbi Raskin’s slaying, a joint statement was issues on Thursday, Aug. 14, by Miami Jewish organizations: “Against a backdrop of geopolitical unrest, a war in Israel and rising anti-Semitism in Europe, our own Miami-Dade Jewish community has recently been alarmed by a series of criminal attacks, including the horrific murder of Rabbi Joseph Raksin this past weekend. We remain strong, unified and committed to working shoulder-to-shoulder to ensure the safety and security of all individuals and Jewish institutions, especially in the face of increased anti-Semitism here and abroad. … We also want to acknowledge and express appreciation for those of diverse faiths and backgrounds who have voiced their concern and outrage over these attacks. This support and solidarity is important and we feel blessed to have friends and partners in so many communities in South Florida.”

The joint statement expressed confidence in the investigation of the shooting of Rabbi Raskin and noted that a plan for greater security measures had been devised, based in part on recommendations by the Secure Community Network, the Anti-Defamation League, the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The plan includes:

• Institutional security assessments with law enforcement to improve access control and surveillance

• Expansion of the “See Something, Say Something” campaign to encourage community vigilance and reporting of suspicious activity

• Education of community members to reduce vulnerabilities and establish close working relationships with law enforcement

• Immediate and ongoing security training for professional and volunteer leaders in synagogues, day schools and other Jewish communal institutions.

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