Virginia Commonwealth University

The Holy Land Away From Home: Richmond’s Jewish Community And Its Connection To Israel

Posted: May 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Portfolio | No Comments »

The Holy Land Away From Home: Richmond’s Jewish Community And Its Connection To Israel from Doug Callahan on Vimeo.

Doug Callahan and Eric Steigleder

The rabbis we spoke to represent these Jewish movements:
Reform:  Less emphasis on strict, biblical requirements. But in recent years, Reform Judaism has taken a more traditional turn.
Conservative: Somewhere between Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism. There is a stronger emphasis on traditional practices than Reform, but more progressive than Orthodox.
Orthodox: Highly traditional. Worship services are conducted in Hebrew. There is a belief in the divine creation of the Torah.
Chabad-Lubavitch: An offshoot of Hasidic Judaism with traditional leanings. There is a strong emphasis on intellectualism.

“There’s no such thing as a monolithic view,” Reform Rabbi Jesse Gallop said.

Indeed, Jews in Richmond are nothing if not nuanced. While the vast majority of the community expressed support for Israel, they differed in the extent of their support and the reasoning behind it. In developing their connection to the land, members of the community pull from different combinations of religion, culture, and history.

From the birth of monotheism to the establishment of a Jewish state in 1948, the land of Israel has served as a religious and cultural bastion of Jewish identity. It is because of this rich history that many modern Jews have placed Israel at the center of their religious faith and political worldview.

This support has been brought into sharp focus following the recent events in the Middle East and North Africa. Beginning with the overthrow of the Tunisian regime and quickly followed by the toppling of Egypt’s government, the extent to which these popular uprisings will affect Israel has yet to be seen.

With widespread revolts in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and an entrenched, NATO-supported opposition leading a military campaign against the Libyan government, Israel’s future safety has been called into question by many supporters.

Senator John McCain voiced such a concern to Greta Van Susteren, saying, “Israel is in danger of being surrounded by countries that are against the very existence of Israel, are governed by radical organizations.”

This unwavering support of Israel is nothing new for American political leaders, and it’s certainly not uncommon for American Jews.

According to a 2010 Brandeis University study, some 63 percent of those surveyed who identify as Jewish said that they “felt ‘very much’ or ‘somewhat’ connected to Israel,” while 75 percent stated that “caring about Israel” was integral to their Jewish cultural heritage.

The same holds true here in Richmond, where the small but active Jewish community feels a strong connection to the land, even from 6,000 miles away.

According to executive director of the Richmond Jewish Community Center Jordan Shenker, the Jewish community in Richmond is relatively small, numbering only 10,000 individuals.

“When you have a minority population in that range of minority,” Shenker said, “you have some verifiable challenges to say ‘how do you build community?’”

But Rabbi Yossel Kranz, executive director of Chabad of Virginia, pointed out that although the community is small, it is extremely active.

“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the Richmond Jewish community is one that is very involved,” Kranz said. “As diverse as we may be, everybody is involved. Everybody participates.”

This involvement dates back to Virginia’s colonial era, according to Virginia Commonwealth University’s World Religions website.

Isaiah Isaacs, the first Jewish resident of Richmond to appear in historical records, was a Revolutionary War veteran and patriot. Isaacs was also a merchant, and following the war, he and a partner founded a business which came to be known by locals as “The Jews Store.”

In 1789, Richmond became the home of Beth Shalom, only the sixth Jewish synagogue in the country at the time.

This history of Jewish involvement in the history of Richmond carries over in the Civil War as well. As president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis’ secretary of state, secretary of war, and attorney general were all Jewish.

The Jewish population in Richmond has continued to grow and thrive, as evidenced by the number of temples, schools, and organizations that have appeared to cater to what has been identified as a relatively small group.

With such an active minority, it’s not surprising that the issue of Israel would be one Richmond Jewish leaders would be more than willing to discuss. Indeed, the very existence of a Jewish state has been at the forefront of Jewish life the world over.

Fol­low­ing Israel’s dec­la­ra­tion of inde­pen­dence in 1948, armies from Syria, Lebanon, Jor­dan, Iraq, and Egypt led an inva­sion into the newly-formed nation to defend what they viewed as the Pales­tin­ian home­land. An armistice signed in 1949 estab­lished an uncer­tain peace between Israel and its neighbors.

In 1967, Dur­ing the Six Day War, Israel was again embroiled in con­flict with Syria, Egypt and Jor­dan. With the con­clu­sion of hos­til­i­ties, Israel gained con­trol of the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Penin­sula and the West Bank.

Con­flict reared its head once again in 1973 dur­ing the Yom Kip­pur War, in which Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in an effort to recoup land lost in the Six Day War. The fight­ing ended when cease­fire agree­ments were signed the fol­low­ing year.

The Camp David Accords, signed by Pres­i­dent Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Min­is­ter Men­achem Begin of Israel in 1979, estab­lished peace between the two coun­tries. Under the terms of the agree­ment, Egypt would rec­og­nize Israel as a legit­i­mate state, and Israel would sur­ren­der con­trol of the Sinai Penin­sula to Egypt.

In 1982, fol­low­ing increased ten­sions with the Pales­tin­ian Lib­er­a­tion Orga­ni­za­tion (PLO), Israel invaded Lebanon. In 1987, Pales­tini­ans led the first intifadah, a pop­u­lar upris­ing in response to Israeli occu­pa­tion. This was fol­lowed by a sec­ond intifadah in 2000.

The Oslo Accords, a treaty signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993, estab­lished the prece­dent that both par­ties would rec­og­nize the oth­ers right to exist. How­ever, it was not enough to stave off this sec­ond upris­ing, nor has it calmed ten­sions between the two groups.

With this long and ardu­ous his­tory, it makes sense that many Israelis, as well as a large con­tin­gent of Dias­pora Jews (mem­bers of the Jew­ish faith liv­ing out­side of Israel) take the bib­li­cal com­mand­ment to occupy the Holy Land seriously.

Jonathan Waybright, professor of world studies at VCU, has studied Israel extensively. He said the religious reasons for the Jewish connection to land is simple, and it can be found in religious text.

“The land is the promise,” Waybright said. “You can read in lots of places in the Bible that God promises the land, and the Jews are to take possession of it . . . So it’s the promised land for Judaism and for Jews.”

However, Waybright said that the history of the area makes the issue much more complex.

“It’s a little bit more tricky, historically,” Waybright said, “because lots of little people seem to be getting pushed around the block in the world. And Judaism felt that it got pushed around a little bit, and it’s now pushing back into that land.”

Reform Rabbi Jesse Gallop of Congregation Beth Ahabah said, “When Israel was founded, through the Six Day War, up into the seventies, there was a view of Israel as an underdog.”

“As Israel has stabilized and strengthened,” Gallop continued, “it has become a first world country, with great medicine, technology, stable economics. And especially during the 90s, when it started to make peace with its neighbors, there was a euphoria like, ‘wow, no longer is it the weak little cousin. It can hold its own.’”

Conservative Rabbi Gary Creditor cautioned that although Israel has grown by leaps and bounds, it still has its fair share of enemies. Therefore, though he said that disagreements with Israeli policy are legitimate, he feels he must maintain strong support for the nation of Israel.

“Because there are those who not just disagree with Israel, but want to see Israel destroyed,” Creditor said.

For America’s part, governmental policy has long showed a strong support for the state of Israel. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States has provided close to $3 billion to Israel every year since 1985.

Waybright suggested that the stance is one based on security.

“It’s in our best safety interest to have an anchor in the Middle East,” Waybright said.

However, he also insisted that he doesn’t know the real reason for America’s support, and that very few people truly understand the politics involved.

“No matter what local Jews may be doing here,” Waybright said, “they’re certainly supporting the lobby all over the states that is interested in gaining billions of dollars from the United States. Whether it’s right or wrong, I don’t know.”

View Israel in a larger map

Tradition In Transition: Libbie, Grove, And Patterson

Posted: March 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Portfolio | No Comments »

Businesses near the corner of Libbie Avenue and Grove Avenue. Photo by Doug Callahan

“We’re different from Carytown,” said Leigh Dobbins-Johnson. “We’re different from Short pump. We’re eclectic here.”

Dobbins-Johnson is co-owner of Shops at 5807, in the Patterson and Libbie Business District, nestled between Richmond’s West End and Fan District. The area, just like its neighbor, Libbie and Grove, is steeped in history and tradition, with many independently-owned shops and restaurants. But now, the two are coming together and looking to change.

“Right now, LIbbie and Grove and Patterson and Libbie function as two separate associations,” said Sally Ashby, marketing director for Carreras Jewelers and president of the Libbie and Grove Business Association. “But our future vision is to connect the two because the corridor down Libbie is expanding into more business and retail. The houses are being sold and it’s being developed into a more commercial space down Libbie toward Patterson so we believe that in a couple of years, there will be a direct path to the shops and businesses on Patterson. So working together connects all of this area and gives us more strength as a whole.”

Sally Ashby of Carreras Jewelers was also a part of another revamping of the Libbie and Grove Business Association, bringing it online and helping it embrace social media. Watch her talk about it here:

A part of this new connection is a large project that would revamp the image of both areas, make them more pedestrian friendly, and make them more conducive to growing businesses.

It started with Elliot Harrigan, a local developer who is a member of the Patterson and Libbie Business District. Harrigan wanted to see the area become more cohesive, so he contacted Project For Public Spaces, a non-profit organization that has been doing these sorts of projects for around 35 years.

“Elliot has done some work with PPS before and he brought them to Richmond and they gave us a brief overview about a year ago,” Dobbins-Johnson said. “So we’ve kept in contact with them. Meanwhile, we’ve been working with the city trying to get them interested in helping fund some of the projects we’re trying to do. Then we realized it had become a bigger project than just boulevard banners and trying to create a little identity for us.”

Leigh Dobbins-Johnson is a co-owner of Shops at 5807, and is active in the Patterson and Libbie Business District. She discusses her hopes for the area in this video:

Dobbins-Johnson said that the city was happy to have PPS involved, since they could provide the business owners with some realistic, short-term guidelines to start with. But before anything can really change, there will have to be some changes to the city’s master plan.

“The way we implement projects here at the city is to have them included in our master plan, which is our legal guide to land use projects and redevelopment in the city,” said John Taylor, a Richmond city planner. “And once something is adopted by the city, then funding can flow.”

Richmond city planner John Taylor is working with the two business districts on their renewal project. Listen to him talk about the process in more detail here:

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Taylor and Councilman Bruce Tyler, have been strong supporters of the idea.

“Libbie Avenue is changing,” Taylor said. “Developers and property owners are having to jump through many hoops to get special permits. For example, it’s changing from residential to office, but it takes about 6 to 9 months for those permits to be acquired.”

But for now, Taylor and Dobbins-Johnson agree that the business districts should focus on small, easy changes that could be implemented without much delay.

“Beautification,” Taylor said. “The Libbie Patterson merchants association received some funding and approval to do some signage to say that you’re entering the Libbie/Grove, Libbie/Patterson residential area. So those are going to be quick. Additional trash cans and benches at the bus stops. That’s easy. Some landscaping is going to be done. Starting to create a sense of place”

After that, Dobbins-Johnson said they are looking to make some changes to the traffic patterns in the area.

“It’s got a lot of problems that are inherent in the way the road is set up” said Dobbins-Johnson. “You come down the hill if you’re going east on Patterson and traffic tends to speed up, even though the speed limit is only 25 miles an hour. We know that we have some kind of traffic calming just to get people to slow down and take a look at our surroundings. We would like to have better street signs, different lighting, some crosswalks. If you’ve ever tried to cross the street here, you know that you’re taking you life in your hands.”

These are exactly the kinds of undertakings that PPS specializes in.

“We are there, working with communities to upgrade the quality of their lives,” said Norman Mintz, a senior director at PPS. “Particularly with an emphasis on how people use and enjoy public space to the fullest.”

Mintz was called onto the scene by Phillip Myrick, who is the lead on the project. Mintz said that his specialty is getting the retail merchants involved.

“Something that PPS prides itself in doing is to primarily look at what the community is looking to do and what they’re looking for and getting them involved in whatever we do,” Mintz said. “It’s always been that way and it’s probably more and more our philosophy to include the community. It’s Richmond, they know it best, and they’re going to be the ones left looking at the recommendations. Perhaps we can guide them in a second phase or maybe even a third phase, who knows? But right now, this is basically a fact finding, understanding, and introductory visit and then we’ll go from there.”

But some business-owners say that the biggest problem isn’t with the traffic patterns or lack of identity. Patrick Heaney, owner of Mango Salon and member of the Libbie and Grove Business Association, said that he is most concerned with parking. With 75 employees, around 4,000 customers a month, and very little parking, he has reason to be more concerned with that issue than with beautification.

“Those are cosmetic, quick fixes,” Heaney said. “It’s like ‘you have cancer, go take an aspirin.’ That’s how I look at it. If we don’t solve the parking, that cancer will grow and grow and grow and it will be harder for all these merchants to survive.”

Mango Salon Owner Patrick Heaney is active in the Libbie Grove Business Association. He shared some history of the area. Listen here:

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But Mintz, Myrick, and Heaney himself all acknowledged that there really isn’t much of a literal lack of parking. The problem is that the ones that do exist are all reserved, and carry with them the threat of being towed. So, it seems that parking is another issue on which merchants will have to work together.

And Mintz was also quick to point out that these things take time, and told business-owners to stay positive.

“This is a process,” Mintz said. “We like to think that it has begun, and it should continue forever. This is something that is not only for you but for your kids.”

View Libbie, Grove, and Patterson in a larger map

Richmond Italian Street Festival brings people out for food and fun

Posted: November 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Portfolio | No Comments »

Mike Federali: Independent comic book writer

Posted: November 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Portfolio | No Comments »

Richmond’s Sikh community works to fight discrimination and educate others

Posted: November 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Portfolio | No Comments »

By Doug Callahan

The Richmond Gurdwara is the center of the local Sikh community.

RICHMOND, Va. -­ “Anyone can be a Sikh,” said Dr. Baljit Sidhu.

An orthopedic surgeon from Chester, Dr. Sidhu recently spoke about Sikhism to a religious studies class at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“We believe in love for all mankind,” Dr. Sidhu said. “No difference in gender. No difference in race.”

Sikhism is the fifth largest organized religion in the world, but it might be the most misunderstood. The problem for Sikhs mostly stems from their appearance. With turbans on their heads and untrimmed beards, they are often mistaken for Muslims, and they have been wrongly associated with terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Dr. Sidhu explained that Sikhism is the world’s youngest organized religion, as it is only about 500 years old. The U.S. Census Bureau does not provide an accurate count of American Sikhs, but unofficial estimates suggest the number is around 500,000.

Dr. Sidhu also took time to emphasize the open-minded nature of Sikhism.

“We don’t ask people to convert to Sikhism,” he said. “That is something we have never done and something we will never do. We believe in respect for all religions.”

Kunjit Singh, the local granthi, or priest, said he is regularly affected by discrimination and hateful language, but he explained that he does not hold it against the people trying to hurt him.

“So many times, when I pass, they shout ‘Laden! Laden!’” he said. “I never mind because it is just ignorance. They don’t know about us.”

Click here to hear more from Granthi Kunjit Singh.
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“It’s definitely a religion a lot of people don’t know about,” said Jasmine Khokhar, Dr. Sidhu’s niece.

Khokhar, 24, is an active member of the VCU Sikh Student Association. She said she doesn’t feel very different from other students, but she was quick to point out that she has one advantage that helps her blend in. Most Sikh women do not wear head coverings.

“I guess it’s harder for a guy because of the turban,” she said. “And their appearance is very different from the average American.”

Raj Goomer, 29, who co-founded the Sikh Student Association when he was attending VCU, echoed Khokhar’s sentiment.

“The guys do tend to bond a little more because they deal with identity issues, because they stand out a little bit more,” he said. “Especially after Sept. 11.”

Goomer was attending VCU and in his Richmond apartment at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and things changed instantly for him. He recalled trying to reach his parents in New Jersey to make sure their New York friends were safe.

“I finally got hold of them,” Goomer said. “And my dad told me, ‘Don’t go outside, and if you do go out, wear a bandana. Don’t wear a turban.’ I was like, ‘Why? You’re being silly.’ And after I hung up with him, one of my friends came over and said to stay inside because there’s guys walking around, and this is at VCU, a very diverse campus, and people were walking around campus with baseball bats threatening to beat up anyone they thought was a terrorist.”

“So for a few days I had to walk around with an entourage of three or four guys and didn’t really go out at night,” he said.

Goomer is now living in East Brunswick, N.J., working as a paralegal and attending law school in the evening. Every year, he gives a presentation about Sikhism and discrimination that is broadcast live to all the middle schools in his area.

Goomer said such incidents have become less frequent in recent years. But Balraj Singh Bajaj, 20, a rising VCU senior and Student Sikh Association secretary, said he has also dealt with many.

“It might have died down a little bit, but it’s still a prominent issue,” he said.

Bajaj said clearing up the misunderstanding surrounding Sikhism is one of the club’s driving motivations.

“We have become much more active this year,” Bajaj said. “And increasingly every semester, we’re doing more things. We’re definitely more active now than we ever have been.”

An important part of a Sikh service is Langar, a meal at which anyone can come and eat for free. Bajaj said the Student Sikh Association applies the same idea once every semester on VCU’s campus.

“We cater food from a restaurant and offer it to anyone who is walking to or from class,” Bajaj said. “We have a table set up and we’re just handing out food and teaching kids about the Sikh religion. There’s a lot of misconceptions around campus.”

Click on the image to see a slideshow about the Sikh tradition of Langar

The Sikh Student Association is most active on campus, but away from VCU’s urban setting, the real center of Sikhism in Richmond seems like another world.

The Richmond Gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship, is a large, white building off of Chippenham Parkway. Once inside, visitors must remove their shoes and cover their heads before walking into the high-ceilinged, blue-carpeted room where the Guru Grainth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, sits. Sikhs regard the book as a living guru and bow to it when they enter.

Granthi Kunjit Singh is a 53-year-old Indian man with a long, white beard and a warm smile. He said the Richmond Gurdwara was built in 2003, and there are about 250 Sikh families who attend.

“When we started this, there was only about 50 or 60 families, but we are growing,” Singh said.

“Every Sunday, we start our service,” he said. “We read from the holy book for about two hours, then we sing praises, then we have community kitchen called Langar. Everyone is welcome. Any religion, any race. The only rules are: no shoes, cover your head, and no intoxicants.”

“Intoxication is our first sin,” he said.

That strong disapproval of intoxicants introduces another difficulty for Sikh college students.

Goomer, the co-founder of the Sikh Student Association, said that it’s really a matter of choice.

“Of course every religion has different levels of orthodoxy,” Goomer said.

“It’s been hard,” Bajaj, the VCU student, said. “You always see people drinking and even Sikh kids get pressured into it, whether they want to or not. But if it’s something that’s important to you, like it has been to me and my brothers and even my roommates, none of us drink. It’s been tough, but I never want to do it.”

Richmond church and other organizations offer support for HIV/AIDS community

Posted: October 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Portfolio | No Comments »

By Doug Callahan


Click on the image for a visualization of HIV/AIDS rates in Virginia.

For those dealing with an HIV or AIDS diagnosis, emotional support can be as important as medical care.

Jay Irvine, the office manager at the Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond, said the church offers that exact thing locally, with its HIV/AIDS ministry.

“Most of the people who come to MCC are those that don’t feel comfortable worshipping in other churches,” Irvine said. “Those that have been turned away because of sexual orientation or things they’ve done in the past. But we accept anyone who walks in the front door.”

Irvine first became involved with the church shortly after his own diagnosis.

“After my diagnosis of AIDS in 2004, I went through a period in my life where I need to get back in touch with God,” Irvine said. “And so in July of 2005, I wanted to get back involved with the church. I didn’t know much about MCC at the time, so I just walked in the front door and they accepted me for who I was, no matter where I’d been or what I’d done.”

The HIV/AIDS ministry meets on the first Thursday of every month and is open to anyone who needs the support.

“We plan from month to month, whether it consists of just getting together and having a meal and sitting around talking about different issues, to going out to baseball games and going out to eat,” Irvine said.

“We try to do things that meet the needs of the people that join the group because some of us aren’t as healthy as others so we have to keep that in consideration. “

“My passion is to help those who are newly diagnosed deal with their diagnosis,” Irvine said. “And let them know that being diagnosed with HIV or AIDS is not the end. It’s just a new beginning for them.”
Irvine strongly suggests reaching out, soon after the diagnosis.

“I would say they need to find a support group right away,” Irvine said. “I don’t think anyone should have to deal with this diagnosis alone.”

It’s no surprise that there is a need for support in the community, since Richmond and neighboring Petersburg each have an HIV/AIDS rate of around 50 cases per 100,000 people, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“Any time where you have pockets of poverty and unequal access to health care, you’re going to see these inequities,” said Elaine Martin, the director of HIV prevention at the Virginia Department of Health.

In addition to overseeing state and federal funding for HIV prevention, Martin’s department also organizes outreach events, aimed at educating and testing members of at-risk communities.

“That’s a really great way to get people tested because people don’t always go to their doctor and ask for an HIV test,” Martin said. “By offering testing in the community, whether it’s at a neighborhood bar, or through a mobile van, or just being set up in a neighborhood, it gives an opportunity for people to test where they live, without having to make an appointment at a clinic or something like that. We tend to find a higher percentage of people who are testing positive when we do outreach-based testing.”

For those who have been diagnosed, Martin said her first bit of advice is to begin receiving care right away.

“Even if they feel fine,” Martin said. “They need to have the health of their immune system monitored on a regular basis. That’s the most important thing.”

In addition to medical care, Martin also stresses the importance of support networks to help cope with the diagnosis. To help provide that, her department contacted the “HIV Stops With Me” campaign to come to Richmond.

“The whole mission of the campaign is to empower people who are HIV positive,” said Melanie Manghinang, a senior project manager.

The campaign puts up billboards featuring HIV-positive spokesmodels with messages of protection and disclosure, but the heart of “HIV Stops With Me” is its website, which serves as a medium for dialogue.

“It really is a community of support, a community of empowerment,” Manghinang said. “And we’re really trying to reduce the stigma of this HIV positive status.”

The data for this story came from the Virginia Department of Health’s quarterly surveillance report, HIV Diagnoses by Health Region and City/County for 2nd Quarter 2010.

The 17th Street Farmers’ Market: A lesson in loyalty

Posted: October 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Portfolio | No Comments »

By Doug Callahan, Veronica Garabelli, Eric Steigleder

Related Links: Market Slideshow | Vendor Profile | Poll

Harvey Fuell sells paper mache figurines at the 17th Street Farmers' Market.

RICHMOND, Va. – At the 17th Street Farmers’ Market, business isn’t exactly booming. But the one thing that seems to combat a slow spell is a loyal customer base.

“There’s people that are generational that come here,” said George Bolos, the manager of the market.

“There’s just the romance and nostalgia of coming to the market for multiple generations to come to buy vegetables,” Bolos said.

Behind the various stands, there is a mix of market rookies and veteran vendors, and those with deeper roots seem to have the advantage.

Myrna Duenas and her husband, Luis Duenas, sell shirts from El Salvador, hand-dyed with indigo by Luis’ three sons. She said they have had their stand at the market for about two months, and are still working on building the business.

“We don’t sell too much,” Myrna Duenas said. “Some people have for years and they have customers they know.”

“It’s the oldest continuous outdoor market in the United States,” Bolos said, “And we’re subject, like anybody else, to the weather. And the weather has taken a definite beating on us.”

The weather is not only causing a slower flow of customers, it’s also affecting Virginia’s crop production. According to the Virginia Farm Bureau’s website, 88 percent of Virginia’s farmland has been hurt by heat and drought as of July 25.

Though developing relationships with regular customers is a proven way to improve business at the market, Harvey Fuell has taken an entirely different approach. He doesn’t care about making money at all. Fuell is an 84-year-old World War II veteran, who sells paper mache figurines at low, negotiable prices. That is, of course, when he chooses to charge anything at all.

“People get at me for selling it so cheap,” Fuell said. “But I’m not trying to make no money. I’ve just been doing it because it’s a hobby.”

And the difficulty of starting to sell at the market has not intimidated people from wanting to be a part of it. Donna Francis, who manages Natures Choice Farms, is a customer who said she might become a vendor.

“When I came here for the first time, last year, there were only three vendors here,” Francis said. “This is a big change. It’s nice to see life here.”