Directed by Aaron Wolf, Restoring Tomorrow tells a universal story of hope as a beloved local temple in decay is revitalized through a community’s commitment to recover their history. Wolf follows the journey of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, a Los Angeles treasure built by the original Hollywood moguls, that needs to raise millions in order to restore its beauty. However, Wolf also recognizes that, in doing so, the renewed temple on Wilshire could also restore the future of the Jewish community, and the greater Los Angeles community itself.
Interestingly, as the film begins its expansion into theaters, Wolf says that the response has been so overwhelmingly positive that it is beginning a movement focused on reclaiming places that matter.
“To me, the most important thing about this is [that] it has started–and is continuing to grow–a movement,” Wolf believes. “This idea that anyone can restore their tomorrow and go back to their place that matters. They can go back to their church, their temple, their cultural center, their YMCA, whatever it might be connect to it, and then go out and make a difference. These places, if we restore them, we’re not just restoring them for the past, we’re restoring them for the future. By doing that, we’re also providing for the future, rising above all the politics and all that hate and all the blabber you see on TV and getting down to the soul of humanity, which is doing good for community, doing good for one another, doing good for yourself. That’s restoring tomorrow That’s what this has become, which has really a gift and I am very grateful for it.”
After his experience developing the film, it has become clear to Wolf that spaces such as Wilshire Boulevard Temple provide an opportunity for all of us to feel as though we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.
“When you’re alone, you’re a part of something that’s just you,” he explains. “But when you’re in a building that you have a commonality with other people… I’m not talking about a political commonality. I’m not talking about a sports team. I’m talking about a life of values and commonality. It’s bigger. There’s a bigger thing. Then when you look up and around and you see there’s a special aura around it. In our temple, there’s this dome. It’s blue, it glistens and it’s unique. Seeing that, you feel something bigger and I don’t want to pretend to know what God is. Everyone has their own faith and I think that’s beautiful. What I do know is that, in building like this, you feel the sense of something bigger and a connection to others, too.”
Similarly, Restoring Tomorrow speaks of the importance of owning the traditions of the past. According to Wolf, this sort of reclaiming history allows us to reconnect those that have come before with the world today.
“Well, this idea of being an ancestor was very interesting in this process…,” he says. “The idea that we’re restoring these places that have been around one hundred, two hundred years, whatever it might be, we are a part of something bigger because we are carrying on the tradition of past people who had been in this same exact place, doing the same thing for 100 years. As long as we keep it going, that will continue well past when we’re gone. It makes you feel connected. There’s a bigger feeling of lineage, of cultural significance.”
Nevertheless, in light of the value of reconnecting with our history of faith, statistics continue to reveal that millennials seem to be walking away from their faith in record numbers. With this in mind, Wolf believes that this primarily stems from their perception that religious belief remains trapped in the past and unable to progress into the future.
“The idea of reconnecting [to our traditions] and the idea of younger people like myself disconnecting, which I did, is very normal right now,” he argues. “I think a big reason is that a lot of people, a lot of leaders in these communities, some are older and they’re hanging onto the past. They want to do what the past did. I’m not a pastor. I’m not a rabbi, so this is just one person’s opinion who went through a journey. I think that it’s important to honor the past and to do it due diligence while also creating new for the future. So, with temple life, for example, that means opening the doors to other religions, to other people, and that means having a social services center. That means having events that aren’t services but are concerts or dances or movie nights or mixers. The place keeps becoming more and more of a hub of good. The more we look at them as a hub of good, the better… Does the world look the same as it did in 1950? No. So we want to adjust and we want to adapt. I think the more we do that, the more successful religious institutions will be and the more they will connect to future generations.”
Within the film, Wolf emphasizes the importance of these sacred spaces becoming places that engage the community around them. In doing so, he also believes that these also become spots of diversity that can both encourage spiritual exploration and create safe conversation that draws people together.
“The community at large is really a deeper topic than you would think, in my opinion,” he states. “Los Angeles, which is the primary place [for this film], is a giant city. So, the community at large seems huge and the area that has thousands and thousands and thousands of people of all different ethnicities. I believe there are [about] sixty different cultures represented in that one area. It’s obviously incredibly important, I think, to reach out to your neighbors and have your neighbors be included in what you’re doing because Wilshire Boulevard Temple is a giant beautiful palace. We want our neighbors to come in and experience whatever it might be—faith, something bigger, good values, the human spirit. We want that and I think that’s very important. I also think that in smaller communities, it makes no difference. What better place to learn and interact with people and to learn how to communicate that a place that has faith and values connected to it, like the temple, a church or community centre.”
“I guess it’s more prevalent in the United States, but it’s all red states and blue states. You’re Republican or you’re Democrat. Well, I think that cultural centers, religious centers, when done right, can become purple places that combines the red and the blue. Let’s make things more purple because, the more that they’re purple, the more everyone is co-existing and getting along. People might disagree and we’ll disagree. No two people are alike, but you can have common values, common ideas and come together for a common purpose.”
“I hope people come in to see a movie and they leave ready to make a difference. The movie to me is the start, not the finish. When the movie ends, I think you see something interesting–and hopefully poignant–and then you’re ready to go make a difference. I’ve seen that all around. Every time I’ve shown this film in all different festivals and private screenings and stuff, [people] come up to me and say, ‘Oh my gosh. I’m going to go back to my cultural center. I’m going to go back to my church. I’m going to go back to my YMCA immediately. I cannot believe I’ve left it. I want to go back and do something good. ‘.. To me that what this is. It’s about restoring your tomorrow. It’s about restoring everyone’s tomorrow so they could go out and make a difference. When people go see [this movie], it’s all about them.”
“The movie is out of my hands. The moment it starts, it’s in the audience’s hands.”
For full audio of our conversation with Aaron, click here.
Restoring Tomorrow is currently playing in Toronto and expands into New York on October 19th, 2018