Temple Leader’s Slaying Leaves Friends Baffled : Crime: Days after Anita Green saw the first evidence of a longtime dream coming true, someone walked up to her car and shot her dead.


A month ago, Anita Green stood poised at the threshold of a dream.

On Oct. 7, after seven years of relentless organizing, hoping, fighting and praying, she was witnessing the groundbreaking for the home of Temple Shir Chadash--The New Reform Congregation--in Woodland Hills. Although some members of the temple’s board thought it would be better to wait, Green wanted to go forward with the groundbreaking. Her resolve eased others’ fears and, as usual, she was able to bring everyone together.

More than 500 synagogue members and friends turned out for the ceremony and celebration. Using a shovel from Auschwitz, Green and her mother, Riva Rice, a Holocaust survivor, dug into the earth. It was a spiritual, emotional event. Even the children cried.


Less than three weeks later, congregation members came together again--to bury Green, their founder and president, who was shot to death Oct. 25 and whose killing remains unsolved.

On that Thursday, at midmorning, Green had just pulled into the parking lot at the rear of her estranged husband’s business in North Hollywood when she was shot by a man who witnesses said had been following her on a motorcycle. Los Angeles Police Detective Michael Coffey said police have questioned Melvin Green, Anita Green’s husband, as well as friends, neighbors and witnesses to the crime.

This past week, Councilwoman Joy Picus said she will ask the Los Angeles City Council to offer a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer. Temple Shir Chadash vowed to match that reward.

Family and friends say they are still trying to make sense of the violent death of a woman who was so well-loved.

Green, 42, came to prominence in her community as leader of the new synagogue, which started in 1983 as an idea hatched over a glass of wine among friends.

As the congregation grew, it moved from meeting at private houses and in storefronts into Woodland Hills Community Church. In 1986, Green spearheaded a controversial plan to develop part of 17 1/2 acres the temple began leasing from Pierce College, as a way of financing a permanent home for the congregation. A developer would build 24 residences on 12 acres subleased from the temple.

Three years of court battles with the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization ensued as the homeowners group tried unsuccessfully to block the development. Its president, Bob Gross, said any effort to link the group to Green’s death would be outrageous.

“She was a very good person. It’s a tremendous loss,” Gross said.

Green’s interests and energy took her beyond the Jewish community and personified what the temple’s Rabbi Steven Jacobs describes as the values of new Reform Judaism.

“She was a very spiritual person, not in the sense of orthodoxy or observance, but as defined by mitzvot “ or good deeds, he said, referring to her work for human rights in Central America and the reform movement in Israel. “That is what I call a religious person.”

Green’s mother, who was very close to her daughter, saw another motivation for her zealous efforts. Her marriage of nine years was falling apart.

“I used to see the unhappiness in her face, but she never told me what it was,” Rice said. “I assume that’s why she got so involved in something else . . . because her life was so unhappy.”

In July, Green had filed for divorce from Melvin Green, her second husband, a 54-year-old tax consultant. Janis McDonald, Anita Green’s attorney, said the couple were “as different as day and night.”

Green had worked as an accountant for her husband’s tax consulting firm, but when the marriage broke up, the separation agreement called for her to work out of an apartment she had rented, going to the office only to pick up or drop off documents.

According to police and McDonald, the divorce proceedings had been contentious. McDonald said her client feared her husband but desperately tried to settle out of court so they could both get on with their lives.

“She was loyal, concerned about his business, didn’t want to hurt him. It wasn’t in her nature to,” McDonald said. Attorney Marian Stanton of Encino, who represented Melvin Green in the divorce, declined to comment. Arthur Alexander, who Green retained after initial questioning by police, was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Anita Green was heading to her estranged husband’s office at the corner of Oxnard Boulevard and Wilkinson Avenue by prior arrangement on the morning of her death.

Coffey said several witnesses saw Green driving on Oxnard Boulevard, her red 1985 Corvette followed so closely by a motorcycle that it appeared as if it would collide with her. She pulled into the four-car parking lot behind her husband’s building at 10:20 a.m. Before she could get out of the car, the motorcyclist had stopped at the curb, gotten off the cycle and walked to her car. He shot her once in the upper torso with a handgun and sped away on the red or maroon Suzuki racing bike. The exact type of gun has not been determined.

The police have released a composite drawing of the suspect and described the killing as “intentional and premeditated.” They are interviewing witnesses, knocking on neighbors’ doors and waiting. “We believe that that individual who killed Anita Green has talked to somebody, or someone knows that person,” Coffey said.

Coffey acknowledged that, along with several other leads, the police consider her husband a suspect in the murder. “It’s a divorce situation and I’d be foolish to say he wasn’t,” Coffey said.

Encountered outside his office, Melvin Green spoke angrily about the events of the past few weeks. Imposing in stature, he was wearing a traditional Jewish black mourning ribbon on his yellow cardigan. He said he feels people are unfairly pointing a finger at him and that he has been going through “holy hell,” but that nothing people can do to him now is worse than what’s already happened.

He said that despite their differences, he loved his wife. “All I can say is, when I saw them giving her first aid, I would have changed places with her,” he said, referring to the day his wife was killed.

Rabbi Jacobs said he and Anita’s only son, Scott, 22, spent an entire night last week trying to think of motives, reasons, something that would help make sense of her death.

“People from the congregation have been calling me to say how much they need the temple now as a place to pray, to share their fears, their hopes and their tears,” Jacobs said.