A man has been ripping wigs off the heads of Orthodox Jewish women in North Hollywood, and police believe the suspect has been targeting the victims because of their faith, authorities said.
Police said they arrested a suspect in the case Wednesday evening. The man, who was not immediately identified, is suspected of battery in three incidents involving Jewish women in September and November, according to a Los Angeles Police Department release.
The first incident, which took place on the holiest Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, involved an 80-year-old woman who was walking on Bellaire Avenue near Burbank Boulevard, the LAPD said. The woman noticed she was being followed by a man who “grabbed the wig off her head, smiled and handed it back to her,” police said.
Later that day, the man approached a 36-year-old woman and tried to pull the wig from her head as well, according to the LAPD.
On Tuesday afternoon, a 58-year-old woman was loading musical equipment into a vehicle near Laurel Canyon and Burbank boulevards when apparently the same man pulled the wig from her head. He apologized to the victim “in a sarcastic manner” before throwing the wig on the ground, police said.
“The suspect appears to have battered the women and targeted their wigs because of their religious beliefs,” the LAPD said in a statement. “Orthodox Jewish women often wear wigs, scarfs or hats to cover their hair as a symbol of modesty.”
Attacks on the Jewish community have become an increasing concern for local law enforcement in recent weeks, after a gunman stormed the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people in late October. The shooter, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, explicitly stated a desire to kill Jews as he engaged in a firefight with police.
Anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise nationally, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks such incidents by drawing on reports from police and news publications. There were 1,986 such incidents in 2017, a 57% jump from the prior year, according to data compiled by the ADL.
Just last week, someone scrawled anti-Semitic grafitti across the outside of an Irvine synagogue.
Anyone with information about the incidents should contact the LAPD’s North Hollywood Division at (818) 754-8451.
Times staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this report.