The New York Attorney General has issued a warning for Jewish communities ahead of Passover that car washes may discriminably raise prices for them.
A common Passover tradition among Jewish people is to thoroughly clean homes and other spaces to rid it of "chametz" — bread containing yeast. They also avoid eating any leavened or fermented grain products, which stems from when the Israelites fled slavery in Egypt, and did not have time to let their bread rise before escaping to the desert.
The cleansing also includes cars, which has led to a wave of price-gouging at Passover, according to the New York Attorney General. Letitia James' office said that they have received several reports in Orthodox Jewish communities, with cost increases for Jewish customers up to 50 percent.
"Taking advantage of someone's religious observances and practices is offensive, discriminatory, and absolutely unacceptable," James said in a Monday press release. "For millions of observant Jews in New York and beyond, Passover is an important holiday, and their preparations should be respected, not manipulated for profit."
In New York City, communities have experienced the trend for decades. A Brooklyn City Councilman's office in 2011 reported calling several local car washes, and being asked whether or not they were Jewish. When they answered yes, they were given a higher price, which were sometimes called a "Passover special."
“It's very difficult to clean your car yourself, so many people go to a car wash and unfortunately, they've been getting ripped off," City Councilman David Greenfield previously said to NBC. "The most egregious thing that we found, and this was really shocking, was that in some cases — for the simple fact that you were Jewish — they were charging between 25 and 50 percent more."
New York State Assembly member Simcha Eichenstein confirmed via NPR that some Brooklyn car washes have still engaged in price gouging in recent years. Eichenstein said that one Jewish customer reported to him that they were charged $125 for a "Passover" service on their receipt, which had the same services as the $79.95 "VIP Detail."
The Assembly member called the practice "bias and discrimination," and said he has worked with the AG in recent years to bring attention to the problem, and to find policy solutions.
James' Monday statement continued: "I urge any New Yorker who is concerned that they have been a victim of discriminatory behavior because of their religion, race, or background to contact my office immediately."
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