The University of Haifa welcomed San Francisco Mayor London Breed to its campus this week as part of her visit to Israel for the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco-Haifa sister city relationship. The visit, which brought 30 delegates to Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem for a five-day trip, was organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Bay Area.
London Nicole Breed, 49, a Democrat, is the 45th mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, having been elected in 2018. Breed is the first black woman, second black person after Willie Brown, and second woman after Dianne Feinstein to be elected mayor of San Francisco.
“Our two cities have a lot in common, from evolving technology industries, prominent educational institutions, and a rooted culture that is rich in diversity,” Mayor Breed told her hosts. “It was an honor to meet University of Haifa’s President, Professor Ron Robin, to learn about ways we can collaborate on climate action, and share the efforts underway to revitalize Haifa and San Francisco’s downtowns. This exchange of ideas is vital to our respective economic futures and an example of the importance of San Francisco’s longstanding relationship with Haifa.”
During her day-long visit to the campus, Mayor Breed met with University President Prof. Ron Robin; heard from Prof. Shuly Winter of the computer science department, and Adv. Inbal Rivlin about the University’s efforts to revitalize downtown Haifa; listened to an overview of student projects in the city from Dr. Yael Granot-Bein, director of the school’s Social Engagement Unit; learned about the Haifa Innovation Labs from Prof. Ofer Arazy of the school’s Department of Information Systems; and had lunch with a diverse array of students. She concluded her visit with a tour of the Reuben Hecht Museum.
Notably, Mayor Breed’s campus visit gave leaders from both cities the opportunity to share their insights and experiences on the subject of urban renewal. In downtown Haifa, the University’s new Lorry I. Lokey City Campus is the academic pillar of the city’s urban renewal project and a cornerstone of its revitalized high-tech center.
“From northern California to northern Israel, the cities of San Francisco and Haifa have much to learn from each other, particularly regarding the role that institutions such as universities can play as key growth engines in their communities,” American Society of the University of Haifa (ASUH) CEO Naomi Reinharz said. “We are hopeful that Mayor Breed’s visit to the University of Haifa’s campus will advance the cities’ multifaceted and long-standing partnership.”
Consisting of five buildings located throughout the Port of Haifa and the city’s downtown area, the pioneering Lorry I. Lokey City Campus enables the University of Haifa scientists to advance their cutting-edge research activities in a wide range of emerging fields, including digital health, artificial intelligence, robotics, and big-data visualization and analytics. The downtown campus represents a central component of the University’s broader vision and strategic approach as a multi-campus institution with locations around Haifa and throughout northern Israel, easing access for students and adding vitality to its city and region while allowing a wide range of ideas and activities to flourish in a diverse community.
During her visit, Mayor Breed also witnessed the University’s unique position as a living laboratory that pioneers a model for shared society in Israel’s most diverse major city. Arabs comprise 45% of the school’s undergraduate student body. The institution also plays a key role in creating the country’s middle class, as 47% of its undergraduates are in the first generation of their family to enroll in higher education; 84% of its students are from the northern Israeli periphery, positioning the school as an educational, economic, and social anchor in that region.
While in Haifa, Mayor Breed also met with Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem to officially renew the cities’ sister-city relationship by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU). This is Breed’s second visit to Israel, but first as mayor. She previously visited Israel when she was the director of the African American Art and Culture Complex in 2012.