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The Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation was established in 2015 in honor of Matthew who died on January 3, 2015 as the result of a tragic accident. Prior to his death, Matthew had led a full and impactful life. He was a national champion debater, Princeton graduate and hollywood writer. But, perhaps most importantly he was a devoted friend and family member.


After his death, his friends and family gathered to come up with a way to honor Matthew’s life. From those conversations, the foundation was born. The foundation started as a small initiative in 2015, but thanks to the generosity of its donors has grown into a formidable force advocating for mental illness and urban debate.


We encourage you to read the rest of this web page to learn about our documentary, “Definition of Insanity” on the Criminal Mental Health Project in Miami, our sponsorship of LEAP trainings taught by the world-renowned Dr. Xavier Amador, and the Matthew Harris Ornstein SummerDebate Institute.

Jessica Berenson
Executive Director

Jessica Berenson joined the foundation in 2019. She is a graduate of Georgetown Day School where she met Daniel and Matthew Ornstein. She debated on the same debate team as Matthew, and although was never as good as he was, learned a lot from him.


After medical school at GWU and pediatric residency in Inova Fairfax, she worked in medical device research for a period of time. Ultimately, she decided to move away from work in the medical field and she was drawn to the Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation for its personal connections and its fervent dedication to causes she cares about.


 In her spare time she likes to play with her puppy and go for runs.

Judith Harris Ornstein
President & Matthew's Mom
Norman Ornstein
Matthew's Dad
Daniel Ornstein
Matthew's Brother
Pamela Harris, MD
Matthew's Aunt

Since 2015, the Matthew Harris Ornstein Foundation has sponsored a debate camp, The Matthew Harris Ornstein Summer Debate Institute in partnership with the Washington Urban Debate League.


On March 9, 2020 the documentary "Definition of Insanity" debuted at the Miami Film Festival and then was aired on PBS. You can find out more (and watch the documentary) at The documentary focuses on the decriminalization of mental illness.


Every year, the MHOMF sponsors several LEAP trainings, put on by the renowned Dr. Xavier Amador as part of the Henry Amador Center on Anosognosia. 

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