By: Yonatan Kurz  | 

YU Partners in Learning Program in Memory of Donny Morris

Yeshiva University has partnered with several other organizations to create a three-part memorial program in memory of Donny Morris (YUHSB ‘20). Morris, who graduated from YU’s high school last spring, was one of 45 who passed away in the Lag Baomer incident in Meron, Israel on April 30.

The programs consist of commitments to take on acts of self-improvement, complete cycles of Tanach, Mishnah and Gemara, and replicate different segments of Donny’s Torah learning schedule; these three commitments will lead up to Donny’s sheloshim — the 30-day period after one’s passing. Yeshiva University High School for Boys, Yeshivat Sha’alvim, Naaleh High School for Girls, the S. Daniel Abraham Israel program and Congregation Beth Abraham of Bergenfield, New Jersey also worked to launch this program. Morris was learning at Sha'alvim this year, and Congregation Beth Abraham is his family’s local shul. 

The first component of the program is the “Self-Improvement Initiative,” which allows participants to commit to one of several acts of self-improvement to refine their character. These actions included arriving at shul five minutes before davening, refraining from speech while in the shul’s sanctuary, starting the daily Chofetz Chaim program, initiating greetings with others and “calling a grandparent every day.” As of publication, over 460 people have signed up to take on at least one of these initiatives.

The second part of the program is the siyum, where people can elect to learn a daf of Gemara, a perek of Mishnah or a perek of Tanach before Donny’s sheloshim. Currently, nearly four cycles of all of Shas Mishnayos have been signed up for, along with three cycles of all of Tanach and almost all of Shas Gemara.

The last part of the program, titled “Donny’s Seder,” is a learning initiative that consists of Donny’s weekly Torah learning regimen and seeks to “emulate Donny’s strong commitment to a life of growth in dedication to limmud haTorah and cultivating the most refined middos tovos,” and “fill the void that now exists following Donny’s petirah [passing away].” Options include Daf Yomi, shnayim mikra, Halacha, Navi, mussar and divrei Torah on the parsha, doing a weekly chessed [good deed], and calling one’s grandmother.

“We are simply devastated and filled with tears at the tragic passing of Donny Morris Z”L at the catastrophe in Meron, Israel last evening,” President Ari Berman said in a statement to the student body on April 30. “As a student of our Yeshiva and a son of a multigenerational YU family, Donny exemplified and lived by our values. He was known for his selflessness, his true love for learning and willingness to always help others in need.” 

Morris’s funeral took place on Sunday night, May 2, on Har Hazeitim in Israel, also known as Mount of Olives. His sheloshim will occur on Monday, May 24.

“We wanted to do something more/different than the classical learning mishnayos in memory for a sheloshim. We felt that the impact of Donny's petira was felt by the larger community and wanted to do something that anyone could participate in,” Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, dean for Undergraduate Torah Studies told The Commentator. “We also wanted people to consider taking on a kabbalah/commitment to change something in their lives — after habituating for 30 days — so we came up with the self-improvement initiative.”

A global siyum for all of the learning will be held on June 1.

Photo Caption: The program consists of three different commitments to replicate the life of Torah that Donny encapsulated.

Photo Credit: Donny Morris z”l Memorial Program