Noted community leader Thomas R. Green dies at 83

From left, Thomas Green, Governor Mel Carnahan and Michael Newmark at the opening of the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center in 1995.   

By Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Thomas R. Green, longtime St. Louis attorney, a past president of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, a co-founder of the St. Louis Holocaust Museum, and a highly regarded philanthropist and community leader, died Monday, March 27. He was 83, and a lifetime resident of St. Louis.

“He was a true visionary,” said Andrew Rehfeld, President and CEO of Jewish Federation of St. Louis, who credited Mr. Green as being his first board mentor. “What really struck me profoundly was his intimate connection with Israel and his strong support. He recognized that Israel had to be part of the Federation’s role as part of what made us distinctive as an organization.”

Other St. Louis Jewish community leaders also spoke extremely highly of Mr. Green, commenting on his keen intelligence, generosity, compassion and deep commitment to Jewish causes both here, in Israel and worldwide.

“Tom was a true icon in our community,” said Lynn Wittels, President

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and CEO of the St. Louis Jewish Community Center.  “His voice was powerful. His influence spanned generations.  He mentored so many and lived what he preached — that a strong Jewish community is essential.”

Longtime friend Michael Newmark, who also considered Mr. Green a mentor, described his passing as “an enormous loss” for the St. Louis community.

“Tom harnessed his intelligence, sound judgment and sense of humor along with his passion, caring and generosity to provide inspirational leadership for our community for decades,” said Newmark, who like Mr. Green, also served as president of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. “He was totally committed to our St. Louis Jewish community, to Israel, and to world Jewry.”  

Thomas R. Green was born in St. Louis on Nov. 21, 1933, the son of Donald Green and Mildred Lubin Green. He attended Wellston High School and was the first of his family to go to college. Mr. Green was awarded a freshman basketball scholarship to attend the University of Illinois, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. Mr. Green continued his studies at Washington University School of Law, earning his J.D. in 1958.

At Washington University, Mr. Green was a member of the Order of the Coif and was later a recipient of the Distinguished Law Alumni Award.

After college, Mr. Green became Assistant County Counselor for St. Louis County and later, Assistant Attorney General of Missouri, while maintaining a private law practice, Law Offices of Thomas R. Green. He was active in politics throughout his life. In the 1960s, he founded National Real Estate Management Company, National States Insurance Company and Royal Banks of Missouri.

Mr. Green served on many local and national boards of Jewish organizations. Mr. Green, along with the late Bill Kahn, former executive of the Jewish Federation here, and the late Holocaust survivor Leo Wolf, are regarded as the three founders and visionaries responsible for the creation of the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center of St. Louis. Mr. Green served as chair of the committee to build the museum. He also served as the Holocaust Museum’s first chairman and as president of the Jewish Federation, from 1997-1989.  

“Tom was larger than life,” said Jean Cavender, executive director of the Holocaust Museum. “Whatever he put his heart into received 100 percent of his energy . . . He remained committed to the museum throughout his life.  May his memory be forever a blessing.”

Mr. Green and Karole, his wife of 56 years, were co-founders of the Lubin-Green Foundation, the oldest supporting foundation of the Jewish Federation, which has awarded millions of dollars in grants since 1985 to Federation agencies, programs for children, seniors, Israel and mental health endeavors.

Among the many Lubin-Green grant recipients have been the Jewish Information Service, which led to the creation of the Jewish community website; programs at Jewish Family & Children’s Service, which supports Jewish adults and their families living with mental illness; Partnership 2000, which connects St. Louis to its sister city region in Yokneam-Megiddo, Israel; JProStl, a major initiative to enhance the Jewish community’s capacity to recruit, train and retain high-quality professionals, and which brings together Jewish professionals, rabbis and educators in a community-wide organization.

Mr. Green also encouraged the Jewish Federation of St. Louis to partner with Yokneam-Megiddo, based on the vision of its mayor, Simon Alfas, for what was then a small development town and his commitment to the absorption of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.

“For me more than anything, what Tom represents is the realization that to love Israel is to love its people and the values for which it stands,” said Rehfeld. “Whether you are going to support every government policy—this commitment is core, and it really showed in Tom’s evolving approach to Israel. Always a mensch in everything he did around it.”

Mr. Green and his wife led numerous missions to the State of Israel and the first official Jewish Federation mission to the Soviet Union during the closing days of the Mikhail Gorbachev regime. The St. Louis group of 12 met with refusenik families who were awaiting their exist visas to leave the USSR to start new lives in the State of Israel.

“Tom Green’s passing is an enormous loss for his family, our community, Israel and the global Jewish people,” said former Jewish Federation executive director Barry Rosenberg. “[He was] always there to lead and go first, always willing to provide wise counsel and always ready to rally behind whatever good direction the community needed to follow.”

Mr. Green also was a longtime supporter of the Jewish Community Center of St. Louis. Wittels recalled how Mr. Green came to the J twice weekly to swim. “You could have set your clock by him,” she said. “Everyone knew him — he was a legend around here — but he never expected special treatment because of his stature in the community. He just wanted to come swim. He just wanted to be like everyone else and have a good workout.”

Wittels credited the Greens with being instrumental to the success of the J.  “Their support is both broad and deep — they have supported nearly every program of the J and made significant investments in our recent capital campaigns that resulted in our new Staenberg Family Complex and the renovations at the Marilyn Fox Building and Camp Sabra,” Wittels said. “We are so grateful to them and admire their community leadership.”

Mr. Green and his wife were longtime members of Temple Israel, where he was a former board member and member of its Men’s Club. His other Jewish activities included the local chapters of the American Jewish Committee and American Jewish Congress (now the Midwest Jewish Congress). He was also an officer of the Harrison Egel Lodge of B’nai B’rith. 

Crediting his education for his success, Mr. Green was also very involved with Washington University, serving on the Law School’s National Council, and establishing the Karole and Thomas R. Green Professorship of Law. On the occasion of his being named a recipient of the Distinguished Law Alumni Award from Washington University, Mr. Green said, “The School of Law had a great impact on the way my life came out, so I have a strong feeling that I should give back to the school for what it has given me.”

Among his survivors are his wife, Karole Rosenfeld Green; three children, Thomas Ronald (Ingrid Ruth Hall) Green Jr., Linda Irene Green (Matthias Daniel) Renner, and Katherine Anne Green (Matthew Martin M.D.) Bruckel; nine grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 30 at Temple Israel,  #1 Rabbi Alvan D. Rubin Drive (Ladue and Spoede Roads), where Rabbi Amy Feder will officiate. No visitation prior to service.  Interment private. 

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Lubin-Green Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, 12 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis, 63146 or to the Washington University School of Law, Attn: Monica Lewis, Campus Box 1248, 7425 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, 63105.