Social justice advocate Fay Slotnick dies at 71

Social justice advocate Fay Slotnick dies at 71
Fay Slotnick (Courtesy Photo)

By Hannah Himes |

Longtime Alexandria resident and civil liberties advocate Fay Slotnick died Feb. 20 from liver cancer. She was 71.

Slotnick served in many roles, including as an attorney, legislative aide to former Alexandria City Council Member Joyce Woodson, both executive director and board chair of the Parent Leadership Training Institute of Alexandria, member and executive committee member of the Alexandria Democratic Committee, board member of American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and board member for Friends of the Torpedo Factory.

She was also mother to three children who all have careers that involve helping other people which, her daughter Jennifer Slotnick said, was a trait passed on by their mother who “wanted to change the world.”

“She’s just a good person,” Jennifer Slotnick said. “She wanted to find ways to do things better. She was tough. She had high standards for herself and everyone around her, but I think that things she had a hand in were better because of it.”

Former Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg said Slotnick had a big heart, and was committed to social justice and making things happen for the sake of others.

“Fay was generous with a can-do spirit and made a significant difference, giving people the tools to change their lives and the lives of their children, thereby having a positive effect on our community as a whole. She will be sorely missed,” Silberberg said in a statement.

Slotnick was from Philadelphia and went to Temple University. She later attended Rutgers Law School. After living and raising children in New Jersey, Slotnick and her family moved to Alexandria in 1996.

Volunteering her time and finding “like-minded people and causes” was how Slotnick found her way in Alexandria, Jennifer Slotnick said.

Former Alexandria City Council Member Joyce Woodson worked with Slotnick in the early 2000s when Slotnick was serving as her legislative aide. Woodson remembered Slotnick as generous and brilliant.

“She was a person who knew how to get things done,” Woodson said.

The two worked together on projects like the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation, a non-profit created to address the need for affordable housing, and the Parent Leadership Training Institute of Alexandria, which aims to help parents become better advocates for their children.

“Fay was very instrumental in, you know, pushing that to success,” Woodson said of PLTI. “She was just really very generous and supported the organization with time and talent, and financially.”

Eliza Engle is the current chair of PLTI’s Board of Directors. She was in “Class 7” of the 11 that have gone through the program, which is currently on hiatus.

“She’s an amazing woman. A compassionate woman. Always willing to help people,” Engle said. “Fay always had a smile on her face and was very concerned about everyone. She wanted to help everyone succeed in life and I feel that is why she worked so hard on PLTI because she could see the result it had in people’s lives.”

Engle said if she can do a small percentage for her community of what Slotnick did for Alexandria, she would feel that she accomplished something.

“She was a committed social justice warrior with a heart of gold,” Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLUVA, said. “Her role on the [ACLUVA] board was one in which she was someone who led by example and who coached us all to be fiercer.”

Slotnick is survived by her husband Jack Slotnick; daughters Phyllis and Jennifer Slotnick; son Steven Lynn (Rebecca); and grandchildren Aaron, Sean and Sydney Lynn and Jacob Slotnick.

There will be a memorial gathering for Slotnick on March 9, from 7:15 to 9:15 p.m. at the Torpedo Factory. In lieu of flowers, her family asked that donations be made to ACLUVA or Alexandrians Involved Ecumenically.