Kenosha has a mystery on its hands after a stone inscribed with the Star of David was discovered near the campus of Carthage College in April.
Amy Kehl, a resident of Somers in Kenosha County, noticed the stone along the lakeshore north of the campus while on a walk.
“I noticed it so quickly that I feel like it washed up recently, and it hadn’t been there a long time,” Kehl said.
The large stone is in the shape of a circle atop a rectangular base. The circular portion contains the Star of David inscribed inside it, and the Star displays the letter “Z” in its center.
“First, I thought maybe it was a gravestone because from above it looked smaller, but the size of it—I thought maybe [it was] from a temple. I don’t know, I’m just guessing. I have no idea,” Kehl said.
Kehl said she became worried the stone would be destroyed by companies placing rocks on the lakefront for erosion control and contacted her parents. Her father, José Martínez, reached out to Rabbi Dena Feingold of Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha.
“I grew up knowing survivors of the Holocaust. My dad and mom both worked for people who are survivors. I interacted with Chasidic Jews in Brooklyn, and my wife has gone to Hebrew lessons about the religion here in town,” said Martínez, who lives in Kenosha. “We just feel a connection deep inside about what happened in the past, and not just during the Holocaust but all through history to Jews, and we just need to respect that and work together to do things with dignity.”
After hearing from Martínez, Feingold got in touch with Cameron Swallow, wife of Carthage College President John Swallow. President Swallow then contacted Associate Vice President of Campus Operations Ted Fares, who had the stone moved to the Carthage campus. It was relocated again on June 30 from Carthage to the garden at Beth Hillel Temple, where it is now.
“I started to wonder ‘what did this come from?’ and, when I could see it, not from a picture, I realized how very large it is,” Feingold said. “No way it’s from a tombstone, it’s way too large. It had to have been something that was on a building, or perhaps a gate of a building, [or the] entryway to a building. But why the ‘Z’?”
Feingold said she contacted two American Jewish historians with that question, but neither expert could identify the stone. They noted the six-pointed star is used outside the Jewish faith, such as in sheriff badges and in Freemasonry. One rabbi in Israel thought the “Z” stood for Zion.
“It was sort of like a Rorschach test,” Feingold said. “Everyone who saw the stone had a different idea about what it could be.”
José Martínez, who originally reached out to Rabbi Feingold, said he still hopes someone will recognize the stone.
“We just wish that it can be identified, and we do want it to stay safe,” Martínez said.