In the last known photo taken of Donny Morris, 19, of Bergenfield, N.J., he was standing among thousands of Jews and smiling as he was celebrating Lag BaOmer. The smile and joy in his face were not only genuine, but a reflection of who he was at his core, according to those who knew him.

Nachman Daniel “Donny” Morris was one of the 45 souls who passed away on April 30 during holiday celebrations in Meron, Israel.

The eldest of three children, Donny, a native of Bergenfield, N.J., was in Israel for his gap year studying at Yeshivat Sha’alavim in Central Israel. He traveled to the northern city of Meron with friends to experience the unique Lag BaOmer celebrations there.

“No one remembers him not smiling,” Rabbi Ari Waxman, dean of Yeshivat Sha’alavim, told Israel’s Kan News. “He always had a good word and was always thirsty for Torah. He was always happy with his friends. Everyone loved him.”

“I just want people to know that Israel has lost an angel,” said Waxman.

“There is nothing more true than this,” wrote Donny’s aunt, Shira Kronenberg, on Facebook in response. “The world truly lost an angel. If his rabbis can know that from just knowing him this past year, you can only imagine how truly incredible of a person Donny was. He will be missed, and there will always be a hole in the hearts of all who knew him!”

Speaking to the Jewish Link newspaper, Rabbi Avi Rosalimsky of Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield, where the Morris family are members, said: “Last year [before COVID], when the boys were about to play football in the park, I overheard one of the boys asking Donny, ‘Why do you always smile? Don’t you ever have a bad day?’ Donny responded, ‘Every day that Hashem allows me to wake up and spend time with you guys is a great day.’ ”

A graduate of Yeshiva University High School for Boys, Donny was reported to be a baseball fan, having both played in youth leagues as a child and as a fan of his hometown team, the New York Mets.

When word of the terrible stampede began to spread on April 30, the picture of Donny smiling in Meron circulated on social media as the family pleaded for information. Calls for people to recite Tehillim, Psalms, went viral as well.

Later on Friday came the news that Donny had passed away, and it has left a family, a synagogue and a community reeling. A funeral was held for Donny Morris on Sunday evening at Yeshivat Sha’alavim and live-streamed to allow Jews from all over to attend.

As soon as Shabbat had ended, a number of friends sent out WhatsApp messages inviting students to the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem for an impromptu memorial service. Within hours, the message went viral, and thousands of students from yeshivahs around Israel gathered for songs, Psalms and words of inspiration in Donny’s memory.

Donny leaves behind his parents, Aryeh and Mirlana Morris, and his younger siblings, Akiva and Gabriella, as well as the extended Morris and Kronenberg families.