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New Movie Event Restoring Tomorrow Delivers a Call to Interfaith Unity

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

Just two weeks removed from the deadliest anti-semitic attack in U.S. history comes a providential one night movie event with a simple yet positive message for America: unite rather than divide.

Directed by award-winning director Aaron Wolf, Restoring Tomorrow, a Fathom movie event showing in theaters nationwide on Tuesday evening, seeks to inspire younger generations to restore historic places of worship of which many have fallen into disrepair in recent years.  It is Wolf’s aim to bring people and communities back together by re-establishing our heritage of faith and the sense of community that has become lost in this age of social media.

Find a theater near you to view Restoring Tomorrow live movie event this Tuesday, November 13th.

Restoring Tomorrow will also include dialogue and commentary from a host of participants including Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, radio personality Michael Medved, Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, Christian filmmaker Phil Cooke, and rabbi Steve Leder.

I recently sat down with Wolf to discuss why the U.S. is experiencing a decline in worship across all faiths, the increase of divisiveness in our nation, and why the restoration of pivotal places of worship could begin a movement of interfaith unity.

Before we dive too deeply into this, what was the catalyst for pouring four years of your life into making the new film Restoring Tomorrow?

The catalyst for making this film was an interesting one to say the least because it shows how sometimes bumps in the road can lead to beautiful things. I was supposed to get married and the wedding got called off a month before. I was in a big depression and then I went to my rabbi leader to talk. I've known him my whole life and instead of feeling sorry for me, he put me to work.  He said, “Aaron, I know you're an actor and a director. Can you make these video snippets that we can share with the city about what we're trying to do to restore this historic place that you grew up in?” And I said, sure. I was looking for something to be connected to again, where my life took a huge turn. Looking back it was a big turn. Let me tell you, it was a blessing of all blessings and I didn't know it then, but I know it now. I went on this journey, I started making these video snippets and then a little while into doing that, I started to realize that I'm serving as some sort of microcosm for what's happening across our country, maybe across the world, where younger people are losing their connection to their religious place, to their place of hope, to their place of importance, to their place of faith. So I decided, I'm going to bare my soul on the screen as well and share my journey. So, it’s not your typical film where we're just profiling a place. This journey is through my eyes.

Why do you think we are seeing such a decline in corporate worship across all faiths?

I think that the decline in younger generations being a part of faith is twofold. The number one most important reason that we need to wake up to, and I wish it wasn't (horrific) shootings that would do that, is complacency. We have become so attached to our phones that human to human contact has become old fashioned but it's never going to be old fashioned. Creating an identity online is not creating an identity. The human-to-human connection that we get at a place of worship, a cultural center, a church, or at a temple is so powerful and it's where you make friends. It's where you have conversation. It's where you go out and make the world a better place. But right now we're so connected to our phones. We're so connected to the Internet. We think that that's our identity. No, our real identity is who we are when we're interacting with others and have a commonality. That's what places of faith do. But complacency can kill that. The second reason is adaptation. Religious institutions, whether it be Jewish, Christian, whatever religion you are, I think we need to keep adapting to the times and make places of worship accessible to generations to come. Because right now we are the ancestors, as we say in the film. We are the ancestors for our future generations. And we want to make sure that they look back and see they (we) were honoring the traditions while making it accessible to future generations. 

From a visual perspective this is a great looking piece of cinema.  This is not your typical documentary.  How did you approach the making of this from a director’s standpoint?

I approached it from the point of view where I wanted to bare my soul in my work. What I wanted to do with Restoring Tomorrow is to make sure that I was showing the rawness as well as the beauty of this story. At the end of the film, I think you'll be surprised. I think anyone going to see it will be surprised and caught off guard with what they feel at the end because I think it's a feeling of hope. I've interviewed a lot of celebrities in my career. I used some of the work I've done and I try to get past what people expect you to see. When I'm interviewing someone in the film you'll see people get very emotional in parts of the film. This is because we get past the surface stuff and then get to the core of who we are as people. I wanted to show that.

We’ve alluded to the horrific shootings that happened in a Pittsburgh synagogue recently. Why do you think we are seeing such an increase in divisiveness in this country as well as around the world?  Does technology and social media play a role?

The purpose of social media to spread positivity. And unfortunately it's also allowed people to anonymously hate. And when you can anonymously hate, you can anonymously hate. My goal is to stop the hate and spread hope. Why is it so important to deliver that message today coupled with unity? Why is it so important to get that message out there in making this film? My grandfather (Rabbi Alfred Wolf) was all about interfaith acceptance. His best friend was a priest when I was a little kid. I thought that they were brothers because they both put on these big gowns together. I thought they were brothers because they kind of looked alike a and then later on I realized they were not brothers. However, they were brothers in arms because they were out there promoting the same cause. I think that the reason that this is more important to me than ever is because I hope my grandfather is looking down thinking that at least I'm doing a small piece of what he did in such a brave way on such a massive scale.  He came over from Nazi Germany to America, arrived at Ellis Island at 19 years old with the idea that he was coming to a free land to practice his religion freely and to spread the idea of interfaith acceptance across the nation. Right now, I think we need that message more than ever and I want to honor my grandfather's legacy. You learn about his story in the film.

As you mention, your grandfather’s story and the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles play a pivotal role in Restoring TomorrowThat temple, once a stunningly beautiful structure, had fallen on hard times and was decaying right before our eyes.  Tell me about your emotions when you walked into that place for the first time.

When I walked in the first time after the renovation, when it was back to its glory, I didn't almost cry. I did cry and I cried because I felt something bigger. I felt like this room offers something bigger. I feel Christians and Jews, we're family. We're family with this one God. If you're an atheist, I don't care. There's one bigger thing over us. It would be nice if we all could believe Him because we're friends. We're family together under that God and that's how my grandfather taught me. The moment I walked in there, and this is why I think these places are so important, is that I felt an immediate connection to that lineage, to my road, to my heritage. It made me immediately want to continue that when I have a family and when I have grandkids. I feel that lineage in communities around the country. You feel full, you feel faith, and you feel this goodness that you can't get anywhere else except that one place. When we show the film, I hope people gather around the country with their families and feel that goodness and then go back to their place of worship or their place of culture and feel it again.

Do you believe Restoring Tomorrow tells a universal story for all walks of faith?

Yes. I believe it's a universal message here. I always intended Restoring Tomorrow to be for Jews but more importantly it's for all faiths because what I've seen, the reactions from Christians and from other faiths is extraordinary. And that's why after the screening of the film, we have this conversation with people of all faiths, with some famous people who you wouldn't expect to see in the same room, but they are there because we're connected by that connectivity to faith.  And so it is very important to me that people look at this film and understand that it is highly important that we gather together -- because when people of different faiths gather for one event, that's rare. Right now as you have said, the world is becoming very divisive. So to have something that we can all agree on and feel good about makes me happy.

After people see Restoring Tomorrow, from your perspective, what would you like to see audiences take away from the one night movie event?  What is your greatest hope for the film?

The film is not mine anymore. It's yours. And by yours I mean, everyone's. My greatest hope is that people go into it to see a movie and they come out of it ready to go home and make a difference in their community. That they are ready feel in touch with God and with community. If that happens, I feel my work with this has done a good thing. I will feel so honored and happy because people are sharing those moments and we're creating positivity again.

Find a theater near you to view Restoring Tomorrow live movie event this Tuesday, November 13th.

 

Watch a trailer for Restoring Tomorrow:

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