April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

‘Donny Morris z”l Memorial Program’ Inspires Learning and Mitzvot

Nachman Daniel ben Aryeh Tzvi, Donny Morris, z”l, was gifted to his family, friends and communities in the U.S. and Israel for a brief 19 years. On Lag B’Omer he was taken from them during the tragedy on Mt. Meron. Thousands were in attendance at his heartbreaking levaya at Yeshivat Sha’alvim and tens of thousands joined via Zoom as he was buried on Har HaZeitim. Shiva began in Israel and concluded at his family’s home in Bergenfield.

The overwhelming task of finding a meaningful way to mourn the loss of such a precious young soul for 30 days leading up to the Shloshim was left to the family and community. During the shiva, a handwritten weekly schedule of learning was located among Donny’s possessions. Noted immediately was that every time slot in his schedule, from morning until late into the night hours, minus davening and meal times, was filled to capacity with learning. The scheduled slots included Daf Yomi, Mishneh Torah, Shnayim Mikra, Tanach, Hilchot Shabbat and Navi, in addition to regular Shiur and Bekius. The rigorous schedule of learning that Donny assigned to himself was evidence of his determination to maximize his daily learning and cover a broad range of Torah study throughout his time at Yeshivat Shaalvim.

This handwritten schedule was mentioned by Rav Aryeh Waxman during his hesped for Donny. Within a day, the handwritten schedule became the unifying document around which a learning program for Donny was established, and created one of the three goals of the Donny Morris z”l Memorial Program, the “Donny’s Seder Learning Initiative.”

This initiative seeks to emulate Donny’s strong commitment to living a life of growth in dedication to limud Torah. The goal of this project is to have as many people as possible take upon themselves to learn a seder of limud on Donny’s schedule for 30 days. To date, several hundred individuals have undertaken to continue Donny’s learning schedule for the days leading up to the Shloshim.

The second component of the memorial program pays tribute to Donny’s middot of sensitivity, compassion for others, sincerity in davening and avodat Hashem. In committing to the “Self Improvement Initiative,’’ the community is asked to undertake one of the following on a daily basis until the Shloshim: Arrive at Shacharit, Mincha and Maariv five minutes early; refrain from any extraneous speech while at davening; learn the daily Chofetz Chaim program of refraining from lashon hara; greet people before they greet you; and smile at at least three people whom you do not know before they smile at you. To date, over 450 people have adopted Donny’s middot as part of their daily tribute to his precious soul.

The third component of the Donny Morris Memorial Program is the learning, which is taking place toward the goal of marking his Shloshim with an elaborate Siyum on Tanach, Mishnah and Gemara. Through a specially designed Google spreadsheet, which has been oversubscribed several times in the last week, people are signing up to learn portions of Tanach, Perakim in Mishnah and Dapim of Gemara. To date, all of the seforim of Tanach have been signed up four times over, the Mishnayos have been studied six times over, and 85% of the Gemara has been learned in Donny’s memory. Plans for the Shloshim on June 1 are underway, and the expectation is that it will be a huge event with the participation of thousands online throughout the world.

The creation of the Donny Morris Memorial Program is a result of the efforts of individuals who knew Donny personally as well as those who wanted to be part of a meaningful tribute to this exceptional young man. At MTA, where Donny spent his high school years, and where his brother Akiva is a 10th grader, Associate Principal Rabbi Shimon Schenker created a board to coordinate the learning program and siyum, including head of school at MTA Rabbi Josh Kahn; Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, dean of undergraduate Judaic studies programming at Yeshiva University; Shoshana Schechter, associate dean of Judaic Studies at Stern College; as well as Dena Kobre, head of school at Naaleh High School for Girls, where Donny’s sister Gabriella is a freshman.

Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz of North Woodmere and congregant Rabbi Natan Farber, 10th grade rebbe and director of student life at DRS, were involved in transferring the handwritten schedule into a clear grid for participants to reference. Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger, mora d’asra of Congregation Beth Abraham, where Donny’s parents, Aryeh and Mirlana, are congregants, and Assistant Rabbi Tanchum Cohen were involved in formulating the learning programs. Yeshivat Sha’alvim rabbanim, Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz as well as many other rabbanim and students were involved in promoting the learning program. In addition, RYNJ, the Yeshiva University Israel Programs and the NCSY Kollel helped in disseminating the project to schools and shuls.

It is the hope that the many whose heartfelt admiration for Donny and desire to comfort his bereaved family, friends and community will participate in this program and through it maximize their own potential in limud Torah and improvement of middot.

To sign up for learning opportunities leading up to the siyum on June 1, go to www.donnyseder.com.

By Pearl Markovitz

 

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