The appearance of a road sign apparently mimicking Charedi Jews has sparked confusion over whether it was intended as an antisemitic slur.
Police are investigating after the sign, showing an image of a Jewish man in traditional dress, seemed to warn about the presence of Jews in Stamford Hill, north London.
The sign was fixed to a lamppost near a synagogue in Clapton Common. Triangular road signs are traditionally used to warn drivers and pedestrians of danger.
Neighbourhood watch group Shomrim discovered the sign on Monday and reported it to police and Hackney Council.
Barry Bard, supervisor at Stamford Hill Shomrim, said: “The sign has caused a lot of concern amongst local Jewish residents, especially as it is in such close proximity to a synagogue.”
Local MPs including Diane Abbott and David Lammy condemned the sign, calling it "disgusting", "unacceptable" and "despicable".
But local residents questioned the intent of the sign, after highlighting the appearance of similar images in the area in recent days, including one showing a woman pulling a shopping trolley.
Jewish residents also suggested the Jewish sign could have been intended as a Purim joke which went wrong.
One source suggested the episode could be linked to an incident involving a group of Charedi Jews and a traffic warden earlier this year.
Community security experts cast doubt on whether the sign was meant to be antisemitic abuse, but a Shomrim spokesman denied that it was a Purim prank.
He said: “Definitely don't think so. We would have seen a few more had it been a Purim joke, and it would have been right outside the shul, not 200 yards away.”
Rabbi Avraham Pinter, head of the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Stamford Hill, said his initial thought was that it could have been a joke.
He said: “I don’t know and I have no idea, but it is very possible that it could have been a joke.
“One of the more obvious jokes around Purim in Stamford Hill has been houses putting up signs warning collectors they use smart phones in the house.”
Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director, said:
“This is another shocking example of hateful messaging rearing its ugly head on our streets.
“If history has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot remain silent in the face of such vile behaviour.
“We need stand together to show that we won’t be divided by these cowardly displays of hate.
“There must be an appropriate response from the authorities to this disturbing event, sending a strong message that such behaviour is totally unacceptable in modern Britain.”