Joel Abraham Cordish dies at 67

Baltimore-born lacrosse fan emigrated to Israel after assault that left him a quadriplegic

  • Joel Abraham Cordish
Joel Abraham Cordish
August 15, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Joel Abraham Cordish, a Baltimore-born lacrosse enthusiast who overcame a severe injury and emigrated to Israel, died of congestive heart failure in a Jerusalem hospital July 29. He was 67.

He was a 1961 graduate of City College, where he played varsity soccer and was the starting goalie on a team that went on to capture a Maryland state championship. He earned a bachelor of arts degree at the Johns Hopkins University, where he excelled at academics and athletics. He was All-America in soccer and was a lacrosse goalie for three years.

Mr. Cordish earned a master's degree in English literature from Columbia University, and enrolled at the University of Michigan for a doctoral program in English literature. While at Michigan, he played a role in founding the school's club lacrosse program.

In 1968, Mr. Cordish was shot in an attempted robbery while a Michigan student. Family members said the assault, which was nearly fatal, left him a quadriplegic.

They said that despite his injury, Mr. Cordish retained his mind, speech, hearing and his spirit. After two years of hospitalization and rehabilitation, and against all predictions by his doctors, he was able to fulfill a lifelong desire to emigrate to Israel.

He settled in Jerusalem and joined the Hasidic movement, a branch of Orthodox Judaism, and began 40 years of learning and teaching.

Family members said he had constant pain and battled the physical maladies of a quadriplegic.

"It was a life like no other. He was so good at making others feel comfortable around him; his gracefulness was unparalleled, like his courage and his sweetness," said Max Apple, a close friend who lives in the Philadelphia suburbs. "From his narrow place in Jerusalem, he saw the world probably with more clarity than any of us do."

He said Mr. Cordish inspired everyone with whom he came in contact through his vitality, joy and optimism.

Services and burial were conducted in Israel.

Survivors include his wife of 34 years, the former Sarah Thrasher; two brothers, David Cordish of Lutherville and Michael Cordish of Rehovot, Israel; his stepmother, Sylvia Cordish of Baltimore; his stepbrother, Paul Bloom of Woodstock, N.Y; and two stepsisters, Marilyn Barnes of Folsom, Calif., and Susan Abramson of Finksburg.

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