In Memoriam: Helene Fortunoff (1933-2021)

By Christy Bailey-Tomecek - December 10, 2021

The Fortunoff Archive is sad to announce that Helene Fortunoff passed away on November 8, 2021 at the age of 88.

A business-minded woman who grew up in her parents’ store, Helene Fortunoff received her degree in business administration from NYU’s Stern School of Business in 1953. After marrying her classmate Alan Fortunoff, she joined his family’s retail business and suggested that along with the housewares they were already selling, the store should sell fine jewelry. The company grew exponentially from there and Fortunoff became one of the few women executives in the jewelry industry, eventually becoming the president of Fortunoff Fine Jewelry & Silverware Inc. in 2000, after Alan Fortunoff's death.

Alan and Helene Fortunoff supported many charitable causes that assisted the Jewish community, in particular Holocaust survivors. This led to them endowing the Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies in 1987. This gift permanently established the archive at Yale and added the Fortunoff name to its title. Without their generosity, the Fortunoff Archive would not have grown into the project it is today, one that has recorded over 4,400 testimonies with 36 affiliate projects in multiple countries. Alan and Helene Fortunoff's involvement with the Archive did not stop with their endowment, as they actively oversaw and followed in the Archive's work while continuing to support it. Their children have followed in their footsteps, with daughter Esther Fortunoff Greene serving on the Archive’s advisory board and son David Fortunoff supporting the Archive through his own generosity.

We are grateful for Helene Fortunoff's decades of support for the Archive’s work and offer our deepest condolences to her family.