Meet CJ Gossage, one of the American Israelite’s newest additions to their roster of columnists. CJ grew up in Bellingham, a small city in the northwestern most corner of Washington State. There he married his wife Jacquie, whom he met in high school. During their third year of marriage, CJ and Jacquie traveled to twenty countries over one year during 2017-2018. Experiencing many cultures gave him a greater appreciation of the world’s many people. In 2018 CJ moved to Massachusetts for three years for graduate school to study the Hebrew Bible. The beautiful scenery, great friends, and the birth of his son, Huxley, will ensure he always remembers Massachusetts fondly.
In August 2021, CJ moved to Cincinnati to pursue a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible at Hebrew Union College. He grew up Christian and always enjoyed reading the Hebrew Bible since he was a young boy. Over time that enjoyment blossomed into intense curiosity, resulting in an all-consuming fascination. Wanting to study the Hebrew Bible at the highest level, graduate studies made the most sense. This led CJ to HUC.
At HUC CJ has most enjoyed two courses, “Jewish Interpretation of Job” and “Second Temple Exegesis” both taught by Dr. Jason Kalman. The former course traced how historical Jewish interpretation of Job often reflects the contemporary concerns of interpreters. The latter course explores the myriad ways the biblical texts were used, discussed, and interpreted during the Second Temple period.
Now in his second year of coursework, he is relishing his studies, enjoying his classmates, and exploring Cincinnati. After living on both coasts, he appreciates how Cincinnati mixes a big-city atmosphere with a small-town character. Having welcomed his second child Norah in August, he loves Cincinnati's family atmosphere, great food, and quality parks. He considers Cincinnati one of the most diverse places he has experienced in the United States, and he is eager to learn more about the people here.
What will be CJ’s role here at The American Israelite? This year The American Israelite will issue a new series titled “Jews by Choice.” This series will explore the diverse experiences of converts among Cincinnati’s vibrant Jewish communities. Each month beginning in October, CJ will interview one of Cincinnati’s Jewish converts to learn more about their journey to Judaism.
This series is focused on pursuing, understanding and, therefore, is important for many reasons. First, “Jews by Choice” will interview members of the Cincinnati community who have found the Jewish religion fundamentally significant. Changing religions, even in the United States, is no small decision. We should be intrigued by our neighbors’ life-altering choices.
Second, this series will provide insight for local Jewish communities. Cincinnati’s Jewish communities will gain greater understanding as to which components of their faith prove most attractive to non-Jews. Many have noted that conversion to Judaism have risen in recent years. This series speaks to that phenomenon. In addition, Jews will likely come away encouraged, recognizing how their faith has radically impacted people throughout the world. In these ways, this series will stay true to The American Israelite’s roots by delivering local Jewish news.
Third, non-Jews will discover more about Judaism through this series. “Jews by Choice” will hopefully provide an easy entry point for Cincinnatians who know very little about Judaism and its various expressions. As a non-Jew, CJ is fascinated by Judaism and its various forms. As an outsider to the Jewish faith, he hopes to write for an audience comprised of both Jews and non-Jews. Therefore, this series will describe its interviewees’ journey to Judaism in ways that are perhaps more easily understood by those who do not have a religious background.
Were these converts religious before their conversion? What attracted them to Judaism? How has Judaism changed their lives? CJ is eager to learn more about Judaism, Cincinnati’s Jewish population, and the lives of its Jewish converts, and to share what he has discovered with The American Israelite readers.
Join CJ and The American Israelite in learning about Cincinnatians who have chosen Judaism, Jews by Choice.