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One Step at a Time

Shoshana R. Meiri

When she had first one, and then another, special needs child, Toby Walzer nearly drowned in depression. But then she got herself the help she needed to be able to ride the waves — and stretched out a life preserver to other struggling parents.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Toby Walzer, 47, was born in London to Avrohom Boruch and Katy Kahan, a genteel, well-to-do European couple, refugees both — her father from Czechoslovakia, her mother a Kindertransport immigrant from Vienna. The youngest of six children, she confesses she was “very spoiled. Whatever I wanted, I got — I just had to open my mouth and it was there.” Toby’s parents infused her with a love and respect for others. “They would do anything for any human being. But they didn’t talk about the chesed they did. If someone was collecting tzedakah, they’d invite him in for a warm drink or meal. It was absolutely a given that if visitors came, I had to give up my bed. And if I had ever dared say something disrespectful to our cleaning lady, I would have gotten it!” As a child, Toby was sociable, popular, lively… and not a good student. Her mind was “all over the place”; today, she claims, she’d be diagnosed with ADHD. She was just 17 when she married Israeli-born Yisroel Walzer. Three daughters arrived in quick succession, followed by a son. “I was very busy with gashmiyus,” she admits. “Shopping, dressing nicely, and dressing the kids nicely.” Then Toby faced the first jolt of her life. When Naftoli — now 20 — was born, Toby sensed something wrong. “As he was put into my arms, I said, ‘Is this my baby?’ And I thought, ‘You idiot — what a stupid thing to say!’ But I kept thinking it… Is he mine?”

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