Gaylah Toby G. Balter

Obituary of Gaylah aka Toby G. Balter

Gaylah Balter, was born Toby Gerstein in Bronx, NY on January 5, 1937 to Esther and Harry Gerstein, whose families fled pre-Nazi Poland. Gaylah’s independent spirit and passion for justice emerged at an early age when she arranged to have a Native American she met on a bus come speak to her 2nd grade class. She later turned that passion to the founding of a homeland for Jews, and spent a year in the young country of Israel including 6 months working on a primitive Kibbutz (1954-5). She returned there three times, twice with her family, and once alone in 1988. Drawn together by their mutual interest in Israel and having a Jewish family, Gaylah married Eugene Balter in 1957, but later divorced in 1981. They had two children: Anaya Eve born in 1963 in Evreux, France while Eugene fulfilled his service in the Air Force, and Ariel Isaac born in 1967 in Flemington, NJ. In 1973 she moved the family to Chicago to send them to a Jewish day school. Having left college to raise a family, Gaylah returned to complete a BS in Occupational Therapy (1979) and later a Masters in Health Education (1984) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also acquired numerous certifications as part of her many careers including Massage Therapy, Tantra, Feng Shui, Bach Flower Remedies, Chi Kung and healing meditation. Gaylah passed on her knowledge and wisdom through classes and workshops she taught and articles she wrote. Throughout her life, Gaylah worked for issues she believed in—health, nutrition, education, environmentalism, social justice, new age spirituality—often before they became widely known or appreciated. She volunteered in her community to raise money and awareness for causes ranging from Ethiopian Jewry to Organic Standards. If she saw a need in the community, she filled it. She helped save the dunes in Miller Indiana and started a Jewish day school in Gary, Indiana. She offered free Feng Shui consultation to food co-ops wherever she lived. Gaylah was also a talented weaver who participated in local guilds and sold her beautiful weavings at art fairs. In her later years she fulfilled many lifelong dreams. At every home she lived in she created beautiful gardens always wanting to make her surroundings calming and peaceful. She lived in a cabin in the country, found her beloved dog Joseph, and became an author. In the last 5 years of her life she self-published 3 books: Clean your clutter clear your life (2001), Gardening with soul (2002), and Spring clean your life (2005). (To find out about her books go to After being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2002 while living in Fayetteville AR, she moved to live with her son in Bloomington, IN and later near her daughter in Olympia, WA where she died in her own home with her family lovingly gathered around her. In each place she lived, people who met Gaylah were drawn to her. Gaylah had a remarkable spirit, moving and inspiring those who met her. She was known for her wisdom and insight in spiritual matters, and many of Gaylah’s students and friends attribute positive changes in their lives to her influence, even as her own health failed. Gaylah used her illness as a time of spiritual healing, and had hoped to write another book about this experience. She spoke of her cancer as a gift and cherished the closeness it brought with her family, including a renewed relationship with her younger sister, Marsha. Although Gaylah’s books were filled with her wisdom and accompanied by powerful quotations she gleaned from her studies, she expressed her most fundamental and loving identity in the simple epitaph she chose for her headstone: Mom. Gaylah is survived by her two children, Anaya Balter and Ariel Balter and her sister Marsha Bearman.
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Temple Beth Hatfiloh Historical Cemetery


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