San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed, now serving as acting mayor as well, speaking in front of City Hall on International Women’s Day. (Photo/Wikimedia-Pax Ahimsa Gethen CC BY-SA 4.0)
San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed, now serving as acting mayor as well, speaking in front of City Hall on International Women’s Day. (Photo/Wikimedia-Pax Ahimsa Gethen CC BY-SA 4.0)

S.F. Jews remember Mayor Ed Lee, welcome London Breed

After losing a friend with the sudden death on Dec. 12 of Mayor Ed Lee, Bay Area Jews are eager to work with San Francisco’s acting mayor, London Breed, whom state Sen. Scott Wiener said is a strong supporter of Israel and of the local Jewish community.

Wiener, who was sworn into his seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors just as Lee was starting his tenure as mayor in 2011, held a joint news conference with Lee on Dec. 11, hours before the mayor’s death, to announce a new pilot recycling program.

“For most of my time on the Board of Supervisors, I was the only Jewish elected official at City Hall. Whatever issues that came up around the Jewish community or around Israel, I would often take the lead and the mayor was supportive,” Wiener said. “He seemed to get it. He was sympathetic and he understood the needs of our community.”

Wiener said the Jewish community will be in good hands with Breed, who joined him on a JCRC trip to Israel in 2012 when she was a San Francisco fire commissioner and executive director of the city’s African American Art & Culture Complex. Wiener and Breed served together as supervisors from 2013 to 2016, when Wiener was elected to the state Senate.

“When we had issues at the board around attacks on the State of Israel, London was always on our side,” Wiener said. “London is definitely a friend of the Jewish community.”

Abby Porth, executive director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, said she looks forward to working with Breed. “Deeply saddened by the shocking news of Mayor Lee’s untimely death, we are nevertheless heartened to know that the city will be in trusted hands,” Porth said. “We worked with Supervisor Breed on various issues and sought her counsel numerous times on issues of mutual concern — from Jewish community needs in her district to gun violence prevention to economic justice matters.”

Mayor Ed Lee looking out over San Francisco's sister city of Haifa, Israel, in April 2016 (Photo/Dan Pine)
Mayor Ed Lee looking out over San Francisco’s sister city of Haifa, Israel, in April 2016 (Photo/Dan Pine)

Lee, who was 65 and the city’s first Chinese American mayor, made a one-week trip to Israel in 2016, including a visit to Haifa, one of San Francisco’s international sister cities. He had extensive dealings with the Jewish community back home, and San Francisco marked its first celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month during Lee’s tenure.

While in Israel, Lee told J. he felt energized by what he saw in the Jewish state and said, “I draw inspiration from Israeli resilience, diversity and innovation.”

Joining the 29-person entourage from San Francisco was Andy David, then the Israeli consul general in the Bay Area, who remembers Lee telling stories and jokes while “asking questions and absorbing everything he could” on the trip.

“What impressed me the most was that he was a man who loved people, who enjoyed the company of others, who was curious about other cultures and their challenges,” David said. “I never saw a mayor who invested so much in the diplomatic community, in the effort to make his city a global one.”

Also on that trip, Lee signed a memorandum of understanding with Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, who announced an art project by the Israeli startup For Real to place 3D ocular viewers in the two sister cities that would allow residents in one city to see a live panoramic view of the other.

Ravit Baer, Israel’s deputy consul general in San Francisco, said the periscopes have been built and will be installed in the coming months. The San Francisco viewer will be at Pier 27 on the Embarcadero. Baer said she would like to see the devices in both cities dedicated to Lee.

“We are sad he won’t be able to inaugurate it,” she said. “It’s a really beautiful project that we are sorry he won’t be able to see with his own eyes.”

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster is J.'s senior writer. He can be reached at rob@jweekly.com.