Skip To Content
Get Our Newsletter

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Jewish Naval Midshipman Among Dead in Amtrak Crash

Justin Zemser, a 20-year-old Jewish midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland, was one of at least seven passengers killed in a deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia.

“He was the most wonderful kid,” Zemser’s mother, Susan Zemser, told reporters, according to the Daily News.

Zemser, who grew up in Rockaway Beach, New York, was a sophomore at the Naval Academy with aspirations to join a Navy Seal team. A high school valedictorian and football player, he was riding the Amtrak train home from the Naval Academy when he was killed on May 12.

“He was just such a nice, good boy,” an aunt Cathy Zemser, told The Washington Post. “He was very, very responsible. We knew it wasn’t good if he hadn’t called.”

The Amtrak train was traveling at least 100 miles per hour when it hurtled off the rails, more than twice the legal limit in the area, investigators said. Among those missing is Rachel Jacobs, the Jewish CEO of an education start-up.

Read: Jewish Start-Up CEO Missing After Amtrak Crash

Zemser’s uncle, Richard Zemser, had high hopes for Justin: “Am I talking to the first Jewish president of the United States?,” he would ask, teasingly, when he spoke with Justin on the phone, according to the Post.

The Post also reported that Zemser had recently returned from a trip to Israel with other midshipmen.

Zemser was a graduate of the Channel View School for Research, a New York City charter school. In a May 13 message on the Facebook page of the charter school network to which Channel View belongs, administrators wrote: “Zemser was the inspiring student body president at Channel View, whose positive example helped guide his fellow students through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy… Our heart goes out to Zemser’s family and the entire Channel View community on this tragic loss of an outstanding young man.”

Zemser had interned for Eric Ulrich, a City Council Republican from Queens. In a statement to the Daily News, Ulrich praised Zenser. “Justin was truly a bright, talented and patriotic young man,” Ulrich said. “He will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved him.”




Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free under an Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives Creative Commons license as long as you follow our republishing guidelines, which require that you credit the Foward and retain our pixel. See our full guidelines for more information.

To republish, copy the HTML, which includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline, images, and credit to the Foward. Have questions? Please email us at

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.