By Imam Ossama Bahloul
Today I say goodbye to a dear friend, Bernard Werthan, who passed away last month. While you may be gone from this earth, you will not be forgotten.
It was a great pleasure knowing and working with Bernard Werthan and an honor to call him my friend. I will never forget his humility, and his passion to build bridges and to leave the world better than he found it. In this alone he was an immense success.
But the impact Bernard made on Nashville and the world reaches far beyond this. As a faith leader, I have been consoling and comforting many of my own community members and have heard so many touching stories of this man who inspired countless individuals across our communities. He inspired people to be their best selves and to make their own marks on this community.
One young leader in our community credited Bernard for encouraging her to be involved, to engage and to create change. She subsequently spent almost a decade working abroad on democratic development projects before returning to Nashville, where she met Bernard at an event. She was so excited to see him but was sure he would not remember her after so many years as they had only worked on one short project together. But Bernard remembered her and shared some fond memories of their short project together. This is no surprise for the people who knew him well and how he truly valued people in a way that is hard to describe.
When you met Bernard, his kindness and soft heartedness were brazenly on his sleeve while his humility would never reveal the importance of his work and his legacy. He is a legend in Nashville, yet when you met him all you saw was his kindness and his capacity for joy, which he carried with him always. His work with the various faith communities in Nashville was integral to the supportive community we have today. We always hear about how Nashville is different, how we consistently choose love over hate, and inclusion over divisiveness and distrust. You can thank Bernard Werthan for creating that culture of acceptance and community cohesion here in Nashville.
Bernard to me represents the best of America and the best of the faith community. The Jewish community lost one of its very special members, Nashville lost a legend and I lost a very dear friend. •
Imam Ossama Bahloul is the resident scholar of the Islamic Center of Nashville.