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INSPIRATION IN A NEIGHBORHOOD LANDMARK: RESTORING TOMORROW

Aaron Wolf grew up attending the historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. It had special meaning because his grandfather was one of the senior rabbis, filling the giant footsteps of Rabbi Edgar Magnin, the “rabbi to the stars.” That Hollywood connection is just one reason this saga is so compelling. The movie moguls of yore may not have been highly observant Jews but they cared about their reputations. Louis B. Mayer was an intimate of Magnin’s who helped fund the construction of the temple, while the Warner Bros. provided set designer Hugo Ballin to create massive murals perched just under the dome to impress worshippers below. They seemed solid from a distance but turn out to be facades—just like movie sets.

We learn all of this as Wolf embarks on a personal journey to understand why he drifted from his faith…and how he was drawn back to the synagogue to chronicle its restoration, not just as an edifice but as an active community center in what is now Koreatown.

Years in the making, this straightforward documentary has resonance far beyond the boundaries of Los Angeles. It’s startling, and discouraging, to learn how many classical synagogues have been abandoned in major cities around the world.

Using archival footage, eyewitness accounts, interviews with the synagogue’s forward-thinking leader Rabbi Steven Leder, and his own experiences, Wolf presents a moving tale of faith and determination. The presentation is not ethereal but practical, showing what hard work and unbridled optimism can achieve. In a time of cynicism and divisiveness, I found Restoring Tomorrow to be genuinely inspiring.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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October 2018
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