Short film series explores the intersection of disability and prayer in the Jewish community
Los Angeles, April 9, 2021 – Aaron Wolf, an accomplished filmmaker and an award-winning actor who lives with ADHD and dyslexia, stars in his own segment of “What Do You Pray For?” The film was made by Ben Rosloff, a talented emerging filmmaker on the Autism spectrum who serves as a Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program.
”What Do You Pray For?” is a series of short interviews of Jews with disabilities who tell viewers in their own words what they pray for and what prayer means to them. The project features Jews with various disabilities from across the United States, with a myriad of different connections to their Jewish identity.
The series focuses on the universal nature and themes of prayer, as well as the hopes and dreams of people with disabilities. The interviews reveal the need for inclusion and a connection to the community. All interviewees provided valuable insights on their disability experience, understanding it to be an integral part of themselves, presenting challenges and opportunities.
Aaron Wolf is a member of the National Disability Speakers Bureau at RespectAbility and an award-winning actor, director, speaker, and activist. He uses his creative voice to tell stories from the heart that entertain and make a difference. He is also a co-founder of Howling Wolf Productions. His credits include the Academy Award® shortlisted film Restoring Tomorrow, plus award-winning films Guest House, starring Michael Gross and Heather Lind, and The Walk, starring Wolf and Emmy nominee Peter Riegert.
In Restoring Tomorrow, Wolf’s personal journey of rediscovery comes alive in this extraordinary story of a treasured Hollywood landmark and local temple built by the original Hollywood moguls, near demise, and a community’s determination to achieve the impossible. The film received extensive coverage in publications such as The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Tablet Magazine, Guideposts and The Times of Israel. Wolf was featured on a range of news programs from CNN to Fox News. The film became a movement, inspiring other communities, to set out to recognize and rebuild their places that matter.
Based on the hit film, Wolf will launch the original television series Restoring Your Tomorrow, continuing his personal journey overcoming tragedy while chronicling the revitalization of other important communities across the world.
Currently, Wolf is in production on the comedy LD University and its companion documentary entitled We Are All (dis)ABLED, drawing from his personal experiences, allowing audiences insight into his struggle to tackle the urgent topic of learning disabilities and de-stigmatize people deemed disabled. For Wolf, this is one the most critical civil rights issues currently being overlooked and misunderstood by society and he is on a quest to use his voice and work for positive change.
A transcript of the film is below:
Benjamin Rosloff: My name is Benjamin Rosloff, and I am a filmmaker, editor, and storyteller. And I am living with autism. There are different types of prayers; prayers that praise God, prayers that thank God, prayers that ask for forgiveness, and prayers that ask God for something. There are prayers that are memorized that we recite or sing to familiar melodies. Asking questions is how we learn about people’s hopes and dreams and what kind of world they want to live in.
This is Aaron Wolf; he is a CEO of Howling Wolf Productions. He is also an actor, director, and a writer. I’m really excited to interview him today with some of my questions.
Aaron Wolf: It’s great to be here Ben, so I do all of those forms of creativity that you mentioned within Howling Wolf Productions, and also with other people that have abilities that I don’t have.
Rosloff: Do you pray?
Wolf: I do pray. My grandfather, and I made a film that had a lot of stuff about him called restoring tomorrow, and he was a big influence in my life. I grew up in a Jewish household, and the prayer that he taught was a bit more abstract, we would do the traditional prayers, and then he would always talk about silent prayer.
Rosloff: Do you recite prayers that you have learned or memorized, or do you have personal prayers?
Wolf: My grandfather, was a rabbi. So, a lot of the prayer that he talked about; there were the traditional prayers and then there was the personal prayer, and the silent prayer, and that was, it was kind of a make prayer on your own household, and that’s how my grandfather taught, Rabbi Alfred Wolf. And so that’s what I’ve put into my life.
Rosloff: Is your disability something you refer to in your prayers?
Wolf: I have ADHD and dyslexia, learning disabilities. It’s more abstract how I refer to them, it’s more things that might be happening in my life that are in some way are result of the disabilities either, how other people are treating a certain situation or have in the past, or how I’m reacting to or handling the situation. So, in that way, yes, but it’s not direct like I pray that this will go away, because it’s who I am.
Rosloff: How does praying make you feel?
Wolf: It makes me feel good, it makes me feel like I’m connecting to myself, to people who have come before me to situations that I need strength for.
Rosloff: Do you think people with disabilities prayers are different than prayers of non-disabled people?
Wolf: I really am the firm believer, and it’s part of this whole work we’re doing that we’re all the disabled movement, which is “we’re all disabled,” but this is in parenthesis, because we’re all able. No one’s normal, everyone has issues. So, my goal with prayer is not to focus on the disability, but to focus on the human.
Rosloff: What do you pray for?
Wolf: I pray for me to look in my heart, my soul, and find my way in this world, and in this situation. So that’s how I look at it, is how can I find my way cause this is who I am, and I’m not ashamed of it, and so I’m not gonna use that in prayer for it to go away, I’m gonna use for it to be part of me, so that I can work through whatever’s going on to overcome that situation.
Rosloff: Judaism encourages questions. It is how we learn, how we grow, and how we gain an understanding of ourselves, and our relationship to God.
The individuals featured in the “What Do You Pray For” series include:
- Erika Abbott: Writer / Award-Winning Poet
- Justin Borses: Former College Student and employee at Moorpark College
- Lee Chernotsky: Founder and CEO, ROSIES Foundation
- Samantha Elisofon: Award-Winning Actress (“Keep the Change”) and member of EPIC Players, A Neuro-inclusive Theater Company in Brooklyn
- Alex Howard: Entertainment Media and Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program
- Matan Koch: Director of RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership
- Amy Rosenfeld-Kass: Teacher from The Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School at the JCC
- Ben Rosloff: Communications and Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program
- Rachel Rothstein: 4th year Rabbinical Student at the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion
- Barry Shore: Ambassador of Joy and Successful Serial Entrepreneur
- Ari Sloan: Member of EPIC Players who is living with Autism
- Joshua Steinberg: Program Associate for RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership
- Brendan Stern: Assistant Professor of American politics and the Executive Director of the Center for Democracy in Deaf America at Gallaudet University
- Rabbi Lauren Tuchman: Rabbi, Public Speaker, Spiritual Leader and Educator
- Blair Webb: System Change Youth Advocate at MEET THE BIZ and former Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program
- Aaron Wolf: Co-founder of Howling Wolf Productions and Award-winning Actor, Director, Speaker, and Activist
Rosloff, a filmmaker who is active in Jewish life and has been to Israel, grew up in Great Neck, NY and earned a BFA in Electronic Media from Long Island University. He has produced films for a variety of organizations, including his documentary short “Can I Call You?!” screened in the United States and Russia during an internship with Downtown Community Television Center. Rosloff also has co-produced, edited and screened multiple films for the United Nations. These include a film for World Autism Awareness Day, where Rosloff interviewed then-Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, as well as “#Envision 2030” for Disability Awareness Day. Rosloff currently is looking for a job in video production and/or editing. His LinkedIn is https://www.linkedin.com/in/benjamin-rosloff-95324011a. You can reach him via Benjamin.Rosloff@gmail.com.
About RespectAbility: RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Founded by members of the Jewish Funders Network, it is the world’s largest nonprofit one-stop-shop on Jewish disability inclusion. RespectAbility knows that people with disabilities and their families have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else. www.respectability.org, www.respectability.org/resources/faith-inclusion