The Comeback Temple
Aaron Wolf’s remarkable documentary, Restoring Tomorrow, puts so many important things together it boggles my mind. The main theme deals with restoration of the beautiful Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles, but the story covers over 80 years -- going back to when the temple was originally built in 1929. So we have the pleasure of finding out why it was conceived, who was involved and what it meant to people at that time. Then we learn about the various rabbis, starting out with the charismatic Rabbi Magnin and ending with Rabbi Steve Leder, a courageous man who argued in favor of the massive contemporary restoration project.
As we cover various time periods, fascinating photographs, interviews and commentary evoke nostalgic memories. And we discover that many churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. have fallen to ruins now. Finally, we see how the Wilshire Boulevard Temple restoration got underway and what a major undertaking that meant. For example, the 1929 temple was known for its majestic dome, but when workers tried to restore it, they found shoddy materials had been used because no one would be able to tell since it was so high! Wolf points out that the entire temple resembled a movie palace, perhaps because Warner Bros. and movie mogul Louis B. Mayer (from MGM) were major contributors. In fact, Rabbi Magnin helped Norma Shearer with her Judaism conversion before her wedding to Irving Thalberg, Mayer’s right-hand man.
The temple means more than a dome.
This building calls everyone home.
Come worship here.
But when the walls begin to crack,
can the temple make a comeback?
A film about restoration:
now a cinema sensation.
Filmmaker Wolf poured heart and mind
into this special movie find.
Powerful and inspiring too,
his documentary rings true.
Because Wolf’s father was one of the great rabbis at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Restoring Tomorrow looks like a labor of love for this talented filmmaker. Intimate conversations between these two help us understand their feelings about a number of important issues.
I want to applaud Rabbi Steve Leder for his comments about the restoration project, particularly its emphasis on serving the diverse community and how it represents being “good ancestors” for future generations.
The grand opening of the restored Wilshire Boulevard Temple is shown in the last sequence -- and what an impressive event it is, ending with the entire congregation and throngs of visitors singing “What the World Needs Now” led by the great Burt Bacharach.
(Released by Howling Wolf Productions and rated “PG” for brief thematic material. Fathom Events is presenting Restoring Tomorrow in 1,000 theaters on Tuesday night, November 13, 2018.)