Charedi men have been targeted by muggers who have stolen their fur shtreimels in a wave of attacks across North-East London.
The incidents have all taken place in Stamford Hill, which is home to the largest Charedi community in Europe.
Two of the attacks happened last Friday evening and in the early hours of Saturday.
In one, a 45-year-old Hebrew teacher was kicked and punched by two men who ripped off his shtreimel, the furry hat traditionally worn by married Chassidic men on Shabbat, causing it irreparable damage. The hat is estimated to be worth around £3,000.
The victim had been walking down the street at 11.30pm on Friday when he became aware of two men following him.
The pair attacked him in the front garden of a house and he received
several blows to his right arm, but he suffered only bruises.
They did not search him, or demand anything from him, and ran off following the attack.
Just over half an hour later, another Hebrew teacher had his hat stolen in an apparent prank.
The 50-year-old was walking home shortly after midnight when 19-year-old Peter Morris walked towards him and grabbed his shtreimel before running off. A spokeswoman for Hackney Police said: “A number of people were in the street at the time, and saw a man running off with the hat.
“They pounced on him and detained him prior to police arrival. The hat was recovered by some members of the Jewish community and was returned to the victim.”
Mr Morris was arrested on suspicion of theft and was issued with an £80 fixed-penalty notice after telling police officers that he took the shtreimel when drunk as a dare and had not known it was of religious significance. He also told police that he had not intended to steal the hat, and said he placed it on the ground after taking it.
The victim, who did not wish to be named, said: “It was quite frightening. I still have the feeling from what happened in me.”
He added that there had been two other similar incidents the week before, and so he was the fourth victim.
“It’s not just one incident, it’s been a spate of incidents,” he said. “That’s why I feel it is something that is religiously motivated.”
Hackney Police had not originally classified the incidents as racially motivated.
But this week after the JC notified them of the two previous incidents, officers said that they would now be treated as racist crimes.
Police are continuing to investigate and anyone who knows of further similar incidents has been asked to call Det Supt Henderson Pierre on 0207 275 4078.