Sylvia Mae Lask

February 25, 1934April 30, 2021

Sylvia Lask – Feb 25, 1934 – April 30, 2021

Who was Sylvia? First and foremost, Sylvia was a giver. She gave of herself without limit. Often to the detriment of her own health. She would advocate for those that couldn’t advocate for themselves. Always fought for the underdog. Championed those causes that meant a lot to her. Born in 1934 in Detroit, her mother Vera was from Indiana, and her father who came from Poland was a jeweler, and ardent Zionist. So much that he fought with the Jewish Brigade and marched into Palestine with General Allenby in the First World War. It was her father who instilled in her an early love of Zion. She spoke frequently of family dinners sitting around the table and discussing world events. At an early age she started going to Farband Camp and later to Habonim Camp Kinneret. It was here that she made many of her closest friends who she remained close with her entire life. At Habonim events Mom learned about Zionism, Socialism and Social Justice. I remember hearing her talk about listening to the UN vote on the partition of Palestine and celebrating when that vote passed in 1947. Her dream was to move to Israel, which she intended to do with her friends from Habonim. Unfortunately her mom became ill with cancer and as a result she stayed in Detroit and watched her friends depart for Israel. She never lost that love or dedication to Israel though, and instilled it in me sending me to Habonim Camp at an early age. After my first summer there, when I came back to Co-op City and announced that I was going to the Mayday Communist March on Washington, Mom was very proud. Dad just rolled his eyes. Both of mom’s parents were gone by the time she was 23 years old. She moved to NYC where she had two close sets of Aunts and Uncles, Sophie and Levy and Shirley and Sol. Together, they were mom’s surrogate parents. Mom started working and at a book publisher and eventually met my dad and they got married I believe in 1957. My parents split in 1976, and she raised me and Vicki mostly alone. She worked as a secretary at our Temple on Pelham Parkway, and later, after we moved to Coop City, she became very active in the Democratic Party and was elected as District Leader. She began working for Eliot Engel after he was elected to the NY Assembly and ran many campaigns out of our living room. She was a delegate to two Democratic Conventions and when Jackie Onasis came to Co-op City to campaign for Ted Kennedy, Mom showed her around Co-op City. Through her job working for Eliot, she became involved in Mental Health and eventually went to work at the Gateway Counseling Center where she spent 17 years until she retired in 2005. She sat on the Board of Visitors of Bronx State Psychiatric Center, and served as it’s president for several terms. She also sat on the board of Jacobi Hospital, always trying to improve what was wrong with the world. She became active in MAHANYS and it was her work in Mental Health that inspired her to take up the fight for parity and educating about Mental Health. She tirelessly lobbied to get her bill “The Mental Health Education Act” passed and after years of hard work she saw the governor sign her bill into law, mandating that Mental Health be taught in every public school in NY State. She loved to cook and bake and her rugalach, strudel and stuffed cabbage were world famous. Whenever I would come back from holidays at home my friends would ask “did you bring rugalach or stuffed cabbage?” Mom was a lover of old movies, and music, especially folk music loving the Weavers, Pete Seeger Joan Baez and Peter Paul and Mary. On weekends she would load six CDS of folk music and listen for hours. Mom was a loving mother and grandmother. My son Ron, from the day he was born became my mother’s world. She would come visit for holidays and was there for every one of his birthday parties. Family and friends were everything to her. Three years ago, I took her and Ron to Israel and I’m so glad we went when we did. With her declining health, a year later it would not have been possible. The last few years her health really went downhill. I want to thank Pat and Eliot Engel and the whole Engel family for taking such good care of her while I was down in Maryland. I could not have gotten through the last few months without you. My mother and I have always been very close. I loved her and will miss her very much. Rest in Peace Mom. I take comfort knowing that you are now with your parents and brothers. I love you.


  • Chapel Service

    Monday, May 3, 2021

  • Burial

    Monday, May 3, 2021


Sylvia Mae Lask

have a memory or condolence to add?

Arnie Goldman

May 3, 2021

This is from my sister, Leslie: "My deepest sympathy to all of Sylvia’s family and friends. As you all know, she was a remarkable woman, who always gave of herself. She was one of a kind. My parents, Milt and Rochelle Goldman were lifelong friends of hers. I always thought of her as part of the Goldman family. I thought of her as an aunt. Our family adored her. She was so supportive of my brother, Arnie and when our parents passed away, sending letters with pictures that meant so much to us. I always enjoyed our telephone conversations. She was so proud of her family and friends and and always spoke with so much love about them. She will always be remembered with so much love." I agree with Leslie. Sylvia was one of my parents' best friends and stayed that way with Leslie, me, and my wife, Judy. I thought so much of her and will miss her dearly. She will never be forgotten. Sylvia sent this photo from the early 50s of her and my mom.

michael benedetto

May 2, 2021

Sylvia was a good friend and a wonderful person. We worked on so many campaigns together and it was also good to see her up in Albany advocating for the causes that she felt so strongly about. She was a pit bull of an advocate for programs for the mental health community and I never could say no to her after she presented her case for a cause.
We have lost a good, caring person.
May she rest in peace.
-Mike Benedetto


May 1, 2021

Sylvia was a really lovely person and a fireball for political causes. She was a member of our Sunday Weight Watchers group and we met at the Riverdale Y.

Sylvia always had a pleasant demeanor and had more energy than people half her age.

I am very sorry for your loss and I wish you, her family, my deepest condolences.


Richard fedderman

May 1, 2021

I have known Sylvia since I was 10 years old, almost six decades. Her work in the mental health field was unquestioned.. She made a difference in so many people's lives. My work with Congressman Engel put me in constant contact with her. My family sends its deepest condolences to her family, especially Marc and Vicki. Rest in peace Syl. Richard and Jerry Fedderman.