There was a horrific murder on Saturday in North Miami. An orthodox rabbi visiting family in Miami was gunned down in broad daylight in a heavily Jewish section of the city. Joseph Raksin was approached by two young males and shot. He was airlifted to a hospital but died a few hours later.

Both the Miami-Dade police and the local Anti-Defamation League say that the murder was more likely a robbery gone bad than a hate crime. But police are still investigating. And a recent spate of vandalism directed against the Orthodox community has many residents questioning whether the rabbi’s murder was an act of anti-Semitism.

The Miami Herald reports:

The shooting took place in an area of unincorporated Northeast Miami-Dade near North Miami Beach, where swastikas found painted on a local synagogue last month have worried local Jewish leaders.

“At this time there is no indication of this being a hate crime,” said Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Elena Hernandez in a statement.

She said police are searching for two young male suspects, one of whom may have fled on a bicycle. The other may have run from the area.

Late Saturday, Hava Holzhauer, the Anti-Defamation League Florida Regional Director, whose organization has been in close contact with Miami-Dade homicide investigators, said the crime “appears to be a robbery that went badly.”

“Currently no evidence has been brought to light that it was motivated by anti-Semitism,” Holzhauer said.

Said Holzhauer: “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.”

Miami-Dade police have not commented on whether the shooting was connected to a robbery attempt on Raksin.

Yona Lunger, a local Jewish community activist and member of the Shmira Patrol — a neighborhood watch group — confirmed to the Miami Herald late Saturday that Raksin was an Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn who was in South Florida to visit his granddaughter and other relatives.

Efforts to reach the relatives were unsuccessful.

Raksin was on his way to Bais Menachem, 1005 NE 172nd Ter., when he was shot, said Lunger, who spoke to one witness who told him that — contrary to what Miami-Dade police reported — Raksin had no altercation with the two young men. He said the witness, whom he did not identify, told him that Raksin was shot immediately after the two approached him on Northeast 175th Street.

Another local Jewish community leader, Brian Siegal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Miami and Broward Regional Office, said he believes Raksin’s shooting may be connected to the recent act of vandalism at the nearby Torah V’Emunah, an Orthodox synagogue, 1000 NE 174th St.

On July 28, police reported that swastikas were spray-painted on the front pillars of a Northeast Miami-Dade synagogue, which has left the local Jewish community on edge, especially amid the heightened tension between Israel and Palestinians over the conflict in Gaza.

There may be “no evidence” that this was a hate crime, but how the shooting went down is certainly suspicious:

Raksin was on his way to Bais Menachem, 1005 NE 172nd Ter., when he was shot, said Lunger, who spoke to one witness who told him that — contrary to what Miami-Dade police reported — Raksin had no altercation with the two young men. He said the witness, whom he did not identify, told him that Raksin was shot immediately after the two approached him on Northeast 175th Street.

[...]

Raskin was walking ahead of his grandsons and son-in-law when he was shot, said Rabbi Moshe Druin.

“We are in utter shock,” Druin said.

Druin said community members ruled out a possibility of robbery because Orthodox Jewish do not carry any money or possession on Saturdays, the community’s Sabbath day.

“There hasn’t been a robbery on Sabbath for the past 35 years,” Druin said.

If the murder was an anti-Semitic act — and judging by these eyewitness reports, it certainly can’t be ruled out — you have to wonder if the coverage of the anti-Semitic rallies here and in Europe might have had something to do with it.