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Shabbat Smile: Restoring Tomorrow by Aaron Wolf

An amazingly talented Jewish filmmaker with disabilities, Aaron Wolf, has created a terrific film, Restoring Tomorrow, that will be a PBS special this Sunday night at 7:30pm (PST) in select cities. The filmmaker, Aaron Wolf, is a wonderful storyteller and a mensch. The film is about Jewish renewal, hope, and how we connect our past with the present and future. Aaron is involved with RespectAbility’s Jewish and Hollywood work in LA, and is a wonderful partner and role model. Please read this piece below that he wrote and tune in on Sunday!


In a world so divided, we need to come together. In a time when some like to focus on our disabilities, I hope my story is a demonstration that we can instead focus on our ABILITIES.

I’d like to invite you to watch my film, Restoring Tomorrow, to share in my journey of coming together with my past, and re-finding my connection to my place that matters: where my Grandfather escaped Nazi-ruled Germany and became a Rabbi at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple of Los Angeles. As you’ll see in the film, this place is a Hollywood icon of sorts. My personal connection is one that I had taken for granted, and nearly lost, as the building was almost turned to rubble.

I have come to believe that my journey in this process could just as easily be your journey, as we all have places and communities and people that matter to us, some that we may be in danger of losing.

My life path includes having learning (dis)abilities, which I have found in my filmmaking gives me a unique perspective. In this journey, I found I was able to use my creativity, passion and the hyperfocus that are all heightened by the different way that I learn. I could dive into this story and put my all into creating something that increasingly meant so much to me. I believe this is a testament to the strengths we all have, even if some try and define us by our weaknesses. I discuss another universal part of my journey that you might be able to embrace, regardless of whether your weaknesses are classified as disabilities.

Throughout making Restoring Tomorrow, I’ve witnessed something truly special: the movement of communities to reconnect with their future and their past, hope, and unity. Now it is my honor to have the opportunity to invite you to watch this journey on PBS this Sunday, December 8th, at 7:30pm (PST).

Like many younger adults, somewhere in my path to adulthood I lost my connection with the place I grew up, and with my religion and heritage. My place. My family’s place. The film shows that in traveling around making it, I felt I was becoming something of a personification of my generation, as I came to reconnect with my roots and heritage. What I’ve seen, going everywhere from Atlanta to New York to Toronto to New Zealand, is that Restoring Tomorrow connects others to their roots, whatever they may be, and leads others on their own path to restore something meaningful to them.

This passion turned into something that others gravitated towards, which means the world to me. I feel shows that I make serve as an exemplar of how we all can overcome to achieve our dreams and prove all the dissenters wrong. The film has continued this movement building, this overcoming, from a nationwide theatrical release to private screenings to appearing on media like CNN, Fox News, CBC and more. And now on TV! I’ve heard from people all over the world, from Hawaii to Maine, from Australia to Great Britain and beyond. They were moved by this story’s testament to what true community means, and that everyone can relate and feel motivated to do the same.

In these turbulent times, on a much larger scale, this film is really all about connection, between the present, the past and into the future. The Temple’s restoration has dramatically demonstrated what every community can achieve, if we dig down deep and reconnect with who we are and what we stand for.

I look forward to bringing this film and the movement that it built to PBS on Sunday evening, December 8th at 7:30pm (PST). I’ll be co-hosting the annual PBS fundraising drive, answering questions about the film, meeting new faces and continuing to spread the good word. Let’s continue to embrace our abilities to reach a place of hope. Much love to you all.


In our weekly Shabbat Smiles, RespectAbility welcomes a wide spectrum of voices. The views expressed in each Shabbat Smile are those of the guest contributor.

The Shabbat Smile is curated and edited by Debbie Fink, RespectAbility’s Director of Community Outreach and Impact and Vivian Bass, RespectAbility Executive Committee Board Member. If you would like to write a Shabbat Smile, please email Debbie at DebbieF@RespectAbility.org.

Meet the Author

Debbie Fink
Debbie Fink

Debbie Fink is Director of Community Outreach & Impact for RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. In addition to this role, she was Project Director for the unprecedented Women’s Disability Leadership, Inclusion & Advocacy Series; and is responsible for RespectAbility’s Volunteer Corps and Jewish Inclusion Project. Ms. Fink brings more than 15 years of diverse leadership experience in public health, education and arts programming to serve RespectAbility’s mission. Fink has a lifetime commitment to enabling people with disabilities to have a better future and is passionate about the constructive impact volunteers can make in the world. To reach her, email DebbieF@respectability.org.

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