Woman at Center of Pico-Robertson Attack Urging Safety on Shavuot
Last week, an urgent message quickly spread throughout Pico-Robertson WhatsApp groups. Sarah Zulauf, a local resident, grandmother and small business owner, wrote that she was walking home from a Lag B’Omer event when three men with a taser jumped and attempted to rob her just one block from her home.
“They threw me down, pulling my jacket off,” the message said. “I am guessing they thought I had money in the pockets of my jacket since I was not carrying a purse.”
Zulauf screamed “Hatzolah!” as loud as she could. Neighbors came out to help, and the three men ran away.
Now, with Shavuot approaching, Zulauf said she was sending out a message to urge the community to practice safety over the holiday.
“I would like to take my experience and please G-d possibly prevent others from a similar experience or worse, chas v’shalom.”
In an interview with the Journal, Zulauf, who owns the food company Sarah’s Organic Gourmet, said that usually she asks someone to walk her home or to her car.
“I wasn’t careful,” she said. “I forgot to ask someone. I live three blocks away and I kind of figured I would be alright.”
Observant Jews like Zulauf don’t use transportation on Shabbat and certain holidays, including Shavuot. Shavuot is when Jews stay up all night learning Torah, which means they’re walking around their neighborhoods when it’s still dark outside as they go from class to class.
On Shavuot and beyond, Zulauf hopes that rabbis and other community leaders emphasize the importance of safety on their event advertising.
“We should always include lines like, ‘Please make sure you have a safe way back to your car or your home and, if needed, we have a buddy system.’”
– Sarah Zulauf
“We should always include lines like, ‘Please make sure you have a safe way back to your car or your home and, if needed, we have a buddy system,’” she said. “That has to be included.”
Another way people can protect themselves is to carry around pepper spray when they’re out and about, according to Rabbi Yossi Eilfort, founder of the Magen Am, a nonprofit that provides security in local Jewish neighborhoods. He also said it’s important to walk with other people.
“If you walk in groups and have pepper spray, without making promises I can’t keep, I can say with near certainty you’ll be fine.”
Eilfort, who currently patrols the La Brea-Hancock Park Jewish community with his team, said having security and being aware of danger is what keeps the Jewish community safer than other surrounding neighborhoods.
“We do what we need to do as Orthodox Jews to live in peace,” he said. “We are living our lives in a security-conscious way.”
The rabbi also pointed out that it was smart for Zulauf to scream.
“Screaming and running away are huge deterrents,” he said. “People don’t generally like to get caught. You can scream and run and make it hard for them to get you.”
Eilfort recommended that when walking home to stay on the main streets or a block away from the main streets. They are better lit and, in general, the more people around, the safer you will be. For those who are interested in additional protection, Magen Am holds free safe-defense classes for the community.
Though Zulauf is shaken up, she’s also comforted by the fact that her neighbors were there for her, and Hatzolah as well as officers from the Beverly Hills Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department showed up. To her knowledge, the police have not yet caught her attackers. But the car she described ran a red light nearby minutes after the incident.
“The police told me they were trying to get the license plate number,” she said.
Learning from her experience, Zulauf is always going to walk with at least one person and carry pepper spray from now on.
“We have to step it up a little bit, even with everything we’re already doing,” she said. “My hope is that we will become even more diligent than we already are.”