Sylvia Bernstein was born in Lithuania on September 17, 1921 to Anna and Meir Sar. She emigrated to Rhodesia with her parents and seven siblings. In Rhodesia she married Cyril Bernstein and gave birth to four children - Daryl, Paul, Gail and Marlyn. Following her husband's death she emigrated to Johannesburg, where she worked in the Jewish Agency.
In 1994 she made aliya, moving to Hod Hasharon, near her children and grandchildren. She was killed on March 4, 1996 by a suicide bomber, with her daughter Gail Belkin, while shopping for a wedding dress for her granddaughter in the Dizengoff Center.