MIAMI (AP) - Hundreds of mourners on Monday followed the casket of a New York rabbi who was gunned down in Miami, and police said that though they have not ruled a hate crime, the weekend incident appeared to be a robbery gone bad.
Joseph Raksin, described as a quiet, kind man, was in town visiting his children when he headed out for temple at Bais Menachem on Saturday morning. The 60-year-old was approached by two young men blocks from the temple - one a bicycle, the other on foot, according to police. In an altercation, Raksin was shot, authorities said.
At a news conference Monday in Miami, police offered no new details of the altercation and asked the community to come forward with any information.
"We understand the grief, the anxiety and the anguish that comes from a cowardly act like this and we share in this community's urgency to find the perpetrators of this act," Major Hector Llevat said.
Preliminary investigations indicate the incident was a robbery, he said. Because it was the Sabbath, the rabbi was not carrying his wallet, but authorities said the suspects may not have known that.
"Right now there are no indications that it was a hate crime ... however, we are not closing that door," Llevat said.
Raksin's death comes as the close-knit Orthodox community is already on edge. Last month, swastikas were spray-painted on a synagogue a few blocks away. Early Monday, a car in the neighborhood was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti. Police said those investigations were still active and declined to comment further.
"We should come out of this darkness not with despair, not with lack of hope, not with hate but with courage and confidence that the evil will be vanquished and good will prevail," said Rabbi Phineas Weberman, president of the Rabbinical Council of South Florida and a chaplain with the department.
Meanwhile, hundreds of mourners gathered outside Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters Monday morning in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the Orthodox enclave where Raksin lived. Many paid their respects by pouring onto the street and crowding around the hearse when it stopped in the middle of the block.
The victim's younger brother, Mendel Raksin, said he believed his brother's faith was a factor in the death - a view shared by other mourners.
"If he wasn't Jewish, he probably wouldn't have been stopped or robbed or mugged or shot to death," he said.
The victim, the third oldest of nine siblings, was "an honest and sincere person," his brother said. "He prayed three times a day. ... He was always out there helping somebody else."
Rabbi Shea Hecht, a lifelong friend of Raksin in Crown Heights, spoke to him by phone the day before he died. Hecht said he viewed his friend's death as a reminder of growing anti-Semitism around the world.
"A person who was a very peace-loving person, who lived a very quiet life, a very pious life - for him to be taken in this way, the shock and pain is very great," he said. "He was a person who did not like the limelight. Now the eyes of the world are upon him."
Tom Hays contributed from Brooklyn, New York.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)