Philanthropic Friday – Philanthropic Moms Honor Roll: Jill Aschkenasy

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

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Jill Aschkenasy with WHO (Photo credit).

Jill Aschkenasy with her children: Ben, Kate, Charlie and James (Photo credit: Paul Aschkenasy).

What makes you a Philanthropic Mom?
I was raised by a philanthropic mom, so I believe it is learned behavior. I watched my own mother care deeply about others less fortunate and act on those feelings. I never really saw it as an option to do otherwise! AS my four children grew up and the last one went off to a full day of school, I had a moment to breathe. I had more time on my hands and I needed to figure out how to fill that time in a productive and meaningful way. It took me some time to figure out the right path, but it was always the idea of helping those who need it most- just took a few years to figure out exactly how! The question in the back of my mind always was, “what will I do to help out? not “will I do something?”

What is an early or stand-out memory of community service, philanthropic commitment or another way in which you felt strongly connected to an issue in the bigger world?
An early memory of personal philanthropy was a high school summer job when I worked at the Norristown Mental Health Clinic caring for the children of patients in a summer program. It was through this initial experience of helping those less fortunate that I really realized the power of rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty to help others. I recall the faces of the children and the personal feeling of gratification I felt by playing with them. I also distinctly recall that summer that all of my other friends were working in jobs where they were paid. My first instinct when my parents encouraged me to volunteer at the Mental Health clinic was a bit of frustration, but I soon learned why I as there and I loved it! And I was lucky enough that my parents helped me make up the difference!

Who was your biggest philanthropic influence?
As I mentioned before, watching my mother as a philanthropist had a huge impact on me. Another influence was an article I read about five years ago in a local magazine, about women doing fabulous work in every field, profit and non profit, in the Philadelphia area. As I read the profiles of all these fabulous women, I thought to myself, “I need to be doing something more, I can make a difference.” it was that article, and mostly the pieces about women in the non profit world, that I kept in the back of my mind. That article kept coming up in my thinking…how was I going to do something notable, impressive, impactful?

What about being a Philanthropic Mom makes you most proud?
I find that the message I am sending to my children is powerful. The model of being grateful for what we have and at the same time, sharing as much as possible with others, both through financial means, but more importantly through hard work and giving of my time, is impactful on who they are. They are seeing the value in all people, and the value in helping those less fortunate. I have founded an organization called Our Closet which provides free clothing to deserving Philadelphians by way of hosting pop up shops throughout the city. At these pop up shops, we serve those in need in a dignified way, by providing this service and allowing them to feel proud about their experience shopping at Our Closet. we are fulfilling basic needs, but also helping to boost the confidence of those living in poverty and facing all of the struggles that go along with that. Having created an organization that serves so many has provided me with many proud moments over time. One such anecdote was when Tasha walked into Our Closet just last week. For a year and a half, Tasha came somewhat regularly to Our Closet with her four year old son.

Then one day, she told me she was pregnant. I was excited to hear the news and immediately threw my arms around her. However, her reaction was not what I expected. She was not at all thrilled about this new pregnancy. The baby’s father was not in the picture and she was living in a women’s shelter. This new addition to her life was going to be hard. For the next few months, she came into Our Closet and I provided her with maternity clothes and also clothes for the new baby. All the while, she was worried about her future. Then about a year went by and I did not see Tasha. Last week, Tasha returned to Our Closet, looking beautiful and carrying her new son. She was so happy to tell me that she had worked hard, moved out of the shelter into her own home and gone through job training to become a corrections officer in the prison system. And, Tasha added, Our Closet was a big piece of helping her achieve these goals. Not only did she have the clothes to wear to her interviews, and the clothes for her and her two boys, but the confidence and empowerment she gained from her experience as a shopper with us, helped her to face the other struggles in her life head on! I would say, Tasha’s story tops the list of proud philanthropic moments for me!

What is the legacy of change you want to leave behind?
The legacy I want to leave my children is to be activists and not to accept the status quo as good enough. Challenge the current state of affairs and continuously question how things can be done better and work towards that goal. if you see a weakness in the system, a crack where people are slipping though, a place where you can make a difference, then get up and make that difference. This can be a very small effort, or a large one. Each piece of the puzzle is crucial, but you must make those moves. Sitting by and watching life go by without participating is wasteful of all of the beautiful gifts that they carry.

What would your child say about all of this?
Who knows? I learned a long time ago to not speak for them…guessing never works!

Philanthropic Friday – Philanthropic Moms Honor Roll: Jennie Lynn Johanson

Friday, March 13th, 2015

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I met Jennie so many years ago. She was a budding entrepreneur in the early stages of launching The Bumble Collection. She was committed and fiercely determined and at the same time, full of incredible grace and kindness. Jennie’s smile and her talent were an amazing lure, as were her vision and her ability to see things clearly. She was just one of those people. The friendship that followed has been one of the most consistently positive partnerships I’ve had – it is one of a kind.

Jennie is a woman whose care and authenticity have no boundaries. She is as true and as open as they come – her creative process immediately syncs up to whatever others may have dreamed up. I am a big fan of the way in which Jennie is able to flexibly, intelligently collaborate – she immediately “gets it.” And this includes ways in which to care for others. Whenever I approach Jennie with a germ of an idea it is quickly met with enthusiasm and bigger, bolder ideas. Her partnership is incredibly valued.

Jennie is neither loud nor boastful – she cares deeply and lovingly teaches by example. Her loyalty is fierce as is her very real desire, and clear abilities to make a positive difference in the world. And make a difference she does. The list of organizations she supports is impressively large and continues to expand. She leaves her philanthropic footprint across an amazing landscape of children’s causes. And Jennie always takes the time to bring others into her work – showing the possibilities and igniting a spark.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to an extraordinary Philanthropic Mom – Jennie Lynn Johanson.


Jennie Lynn Johanson with son Julian, 5. (Photo credit: Vinka Pasos-Ferrell).

What makes you a Philanthropic Mom?

I am humbled to be thought of as a Philanthropic Mom. I try my best to be a good role model for my two kids and teach them through example to be respectful to others and to themselves and to give back to others in need. We live in a society where it is very easy to get caught up in our own lives and the needs of others are placed secondary. I try to be involved both personally and professionally with philanthropic organizations. My husband being a physician makes me aware of too much pain and suffering online gambling that many have to endure. I feel it is my responsibility as a mother, wife, and a business owner that we need to give back and aim to assist where we can. It is my motto that if we can make one person’s heart smile every day, then we are on a path to make a difference in the world.

What is an early or stand-out memory of community service, philanthropic commitment or another way in which you felt strongly connected to an issue in the bigger world?

About 20 years ago, I use to volunteer at a local children’s home where many of the children had been physically abused. It was heart breaking to say the least. There was one girl who no one seemed to be able to make a connection to and therefore many just left her alone. Every week I would go, I would make little drawings on small cards with her name on them and leave them by her. This lasted over two months and finally one day she came over to me and said “I like your drawings. They make me smile”. It warmed my heart and I think I warmed hers. It was then that I realized that one person could make a difference in someone’s lives. It’s the small things that could make a difference for someone.

Who was your biggest philanthropic influence?

My parents. I was raised where it was taught that it was important to give back and not just monetarily. It was important to give your time and efforts to others in need. That it would make you a better person and make our world a better place. I have always watched my parents be kind to others and to give back to others in need. If I can do the same for my kids, then I think that I have done well as a mom.

What about being a Philanthropic Mom makes you most proud?

That’s easy. It’s knowing that I made a difference. It’s when I can look at my children and see them make decisions that have helped someone in need. When I see them take notice of something that they would have done differently. Our children are an extension of us and knowing that I am helping mold two young ones minds to be whatever they want to be is enough to make my heart smile and feel proud.

What is the legacy of change you want to leave behind?

That someone will be better off because of something I was involved in. I hope that my efforts from being involved in different children’s organizations would make one more child feel special and know that there are many people out there who care. And that perhaps that my efforts would inspire others to give back and aim to make a difference.

What would your children say about all of this?

Hopefully my children would be proud and know that everything I do is with them in mind and is for them.

It’s Working Project

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

its-working-logo (1)


Our commitment continues. The It’s Working Project is committed to helping the private sector successfully bring new mothers back to work with ease, as a matter of course and with a sense of pride.

Visit us, join us and be a part of the shift…


Forty Weeks is Hiring in Bethesda, Maryland — are we looking for you?

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Want to join Forty Weeks as a Senior Project Manager? Are you equal parts efficiency and exuberance? Able to manage our amazing team, clients and deadlines and still be a confident, contributing and yes energetic part of of a remarkable team? Are you looking to use your smarts, laugh along the way and consider mid-day espresso a part of the routine? Here is what you will need to know:


Job Description


Forty Weeks, the leading strategy firm in the expectant and new parent space, is looking for a Senior Project Manager to oversee and manage all projects and staff. We handle a carefully curated list of top-tier clients including foundations, media and manufacturers within our highly vertical space.


The ideal candidate has significant experience leading teams, scoping projects, and liaising with clients. In addition, we are looking for someone who is highly organized, energetic, and a motivated self-starter — equal parts cheerleader and taskmaster. We’re building something incredibly exciting here at Forty Weeks, and we want to find a team player who is willing to think big and value small – someone who isn’t afraid to take charge, but also isn’t afraid to get dirty hands. Our work style is focused on efficiency and addressing clients’ needs expediently.


Responsibilities will include:

  • Creating and managing workflow
  • Leading team meetings and managing all staff responsibilities
  • Assisting as needed with strategy and new business development
  • Overseeing all digital projects
  • Leading all special projects
  • Managing all ongoing programs and client work
  • Expanding our new Mothers @ Work initiative
  • Client communication and reporting



  • Extensive project management experience. PMI certification a plus, but not required
  • Excellent communication skills, both oral and written, and a track record of timely and well-presented deliverables
  • Confidence to manage clients while keeping project deliverables on time and within budget
  • Problem solver with ability to listen, assess, and quickly respond and react to challenges in real time
  • Experience with corporate social responsibility campaigns or familiarity with the space
  • Experience managing digital teams and projects on multiple platforms
  • Knowledge of social and other media platforms
  • Reliable self-starter
  • Innovative thinker
  • High energy
  • Team player; willingness to do the detail work, not leaving all the work to others
  • Proficiency in PowerPoint, Excel and Word
  • Experience working at a communications, strategy, or PR firm a plus


We offer flexible office hours and a part-time schedule in our Bethesda, Maryland offices.


Please send cover letter and resume to Ruth Turoff at ruth@fortyweeks.com.

A Look Back at the Start of How Julia Started Forty Weeks #TBT

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Earlier this week, Julia appeared on The Moms‘ Sirius XM Radio Show – in fact, they named her MOM OF THE WEEK! Most of their questions were about how Julia got started with Forty Weeks, putting the last 15 years (has it really been that long?) into context. While Julia gave them a quick backstory, we thought we would take the time to share the whole tale, in Julia’s words.

“The year is 1998 I am young (30 years old!!!) and expecting my first child. My career is humming along at an admirable clip. It is an exciting, promising time despite the lousy wardrobe options that I had to endure. But enough about the clothes (did I mention how terrible the clothes were?) – Or least for now…

The summer wears on, I get bigger, my toes become a distant memory and I inhale huge amounts of fresh fruit on a daily basis. One day while working on one of my publishing projects – (yes back then magazines were all the rage and made and paid real money to boot) – my adorable UPS man delivers a box. This would later be known as the delivery that changed everything. In the box was a plump little blue plush bear and the bear was wearing a t-shirt which read “Breast is Best”.

My hormones and I are at a complete loss. Are they talking to me? This is marketing geared towards me? They are trying to persuade me to do something, anything via a stuffed animal? A fluffy pastel colored lactation ambassador – for me? No, they are confused. I am educated, I am affluent (enough), I am established, I am a woman of taste – yet somehow it makes sense to market to me as if I am the fetus I am carrying. Don’t they know I am eager to know more and open to new ideas? Don’t they get how easy it would be to speak intelligently to me? Don’t they see that pastel pink is not a language I understand? The rant continues and turns into my manifesto: no ducks, no bunnies (and no more nasty maternity clothes).

No, I decide – that is not it and the time has come for a change. And further, I will fire all of my well-paying publishing clients and show the world that there is a better way to market to expectant women. I will teach the brands of this world how to enter into a conversation during a woman’s Forty Week journey with integrity and meaning. And I will not stop until I have changed playing field for good. My friends, family and epically my first husband think I have lost my mind. Perhaps… (I like to blame the hormones).

So I did. First I launched a line of personal care products – there were two gift sets focused on the needs of a laboring woman and another focused on the needs of a new mother. Special Deliverease, The Essential Labor Comfort Kit and Special Momease, The Essential New Mother Comfort Kit were unlike anything on the market at the time.  They were immediate hits and baby shower staples. This is how I met Ann Douglas, Peg Moline (Fit Pregnancy), Amy Coe, Emilia Fabricant (Cadeau), Laurie McCartney (Babystyle), Shannon DiPadova (Due), Debbie Ohanian (Meet Me in Miami), Jessica Hartshorn (American Baby), Uli Belinky (Zuntano) and many of the other powerhouse women in my life.

Special Momease

Special Momease

I manufactured, marketed and sold the kits (Nordstrom, Bloomies, Mimi, Babystyle and an array of specialty retailers carried the line). Forty Weeks grew, my old skills as a media strategy maven translated well into my new role as one of the pioneers of the new wave of juvenile and baby. By my second trade show I was consulting the vendors around me, teaching basic PR and strategy, jointly pitching media, designing retail partnerships, building associations, writing promotions and advertorials and generally moving  me to where I am today.

I like to say that Lila inspired me – and she did. That pregnancy opened my eyes and helped to lead me down this incredible (though not always smooth) road that I have been on for 11 years. And with year passing day, week and year – I become more keenly aware of the blessing of that box with the silly blue bear. A career like this – rich with what feels like endless opportunities to work with incredible individuals (helping them to achieve their dreams) and organizations, change the game and make an honest difference in the lives of women is beyond expectation. It is at once very personal and very public. My gratitude is never cloaked and my deep love and passion for what I do and the people I do it with/for is something I wear with great pride. And the best part is that tomorrow is another day and another new chapter in the world of Forty Weeks.”

And that is the story, at least as of the blog post Julia wrote on December 1,  2009 – the rest as they say, is unwritten. And as Julia is often heard saying – stay tuned….

The Grammys Baby – Ciara Gets it All Kinds of Right

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Singing loud and proud  - the breathtakingly beautiful Ciara had something to say about the beauty of dressing a bump for the red carpet:

“Let it be. The bigger the bump, the better.”
—pregnant Ciara on not having to stress about what she eats

And her stunning confidence was not limited to  awards night– look at this glowing beauty at the annual MusiCares party earlier in the week. Talk about a picture-pefect Philanthropic Mom to be!

Ciara, A Glowing Philanthropic Mom (to be)

I say we pass it along – because Ciara’s brand of  self-care and comfort is as good as it gets!


Mommy Wars Day 18,250+

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Diego Rivera, Motherhood – 1928

If you read much these days you know we are deep in year FOREVER (plus or minus a few decades) of the Mommy Wars. As the war continues on, new innocents join the battle fields (the whole pregnancy glow is a great recruitment technique, IMO) and bold new voices emerge to draw and defend the latest line between good and bad, savvy and simple, evolved and remedial. And, if you spend much time with me, you  likely know that I have a theory. It goes something like this:

The Mommy Wars begin as early as that first glance at a positive pregnancy test. That first glimpse into the reality of one’s own maternity causes an immediate whiplash that forces the mom-to-be to quickly examine her workplace. And when one’s mind wanders to the big, bad question of “what now” — the answer and the trap lies firmly in the lap of the workplace.

The once passionate, loyal and coveted employee is suddenly forced make rapid-fire decisions about who she will be, and as such- which side of the Mommy Wars she will play for.  All this because here in the proserpus United States of America we neiter have an active legistlative mandate nor private sector support for keeping our best and brightest women in the workplace.

And so women chose. But only because here in the United States we have chosen to ignore the truth about women and work. Women have babies. Women need to noursih and care for these babies. Here in the United States, our national culture in which we urge (read as pressure) one thing and legistale another, there is no winning.We have chosen to be the only industrialized nation not to mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns.

Here is an infographic from Huffington Post sure to turn your stomach.

So when Jessica Grose writes and publishes in New York Magazine she is ulitmatey attacked  (we are at war people!) for her views of how women are turning to other cultures for cues as to how to take-on the daily challenges of motherhood, even childbirth and pregnancy,  I have to blow my ref’s whistle (wars have referees and whistles, no?). Not because the techniques are shocking and extreme. That is another issue for another day. I demand we stop and pay attention. These cultures are ones in which women are mothers, that is what they do. These are not cultures where the juggle, balance and ultimate failure to do two incredibly difficult things well at once is the accepted standard. These mothers are proudly working in the home, supported by their villages and revered in their community as mothers. And if they are working outside of the home, it is with the proper support of their community and an understanding of the value of both roles. These are places where there is space made for being a mother. These are cultures where this is the job at hand – and it is honored as such. There is so much positive to take away,  appreciate and consider. But let’s be honest with each other — we are not set up to succeed here at home. And until we are — trying on another culture’s techniques while living in DC or Brooklyn  is much like playing dress-up in a closet full of beautiful Saris. It sure looks good…

Giving J Crew Great Grades

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

This morning I woke up to something that made me smile. J Crew is launching their maternity denim collection. I am a fan of the brand and their continued growth and transformation (maybe less a fan of the amount of money my teen girls spend there!!!). And at the heart of that  is the obvious effort and care that their team has put into not only reaching but also understanding their market. And, as my last fifteen years in this industry have proven, this is a tricky market. Get it right — you get to be the hero, darling and BFF – get it wrong it’s over and fast.  Based on this image – and all that it captures, I would say, J Crew is well on their way to  making friends in BumpLand!

So for my Morning Report Card:


COPY:      A

Giving great grades to J Crew for capturing the mood perfectly in their email blast this AM! If the fit and wear of this new maternity denim assortment is as good as this pitch-perfect image you will make my honor-roll! Well done!

Fifteen Finds – The Year That Was 2013

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

The year that was 2013 – it was a wild, winding and wonderful adventure. Thank you to all of my remarkable family and friends – without you this particular ship cannot sail. So in taking inventory and feeling grateful, I had to stop and think about what really did float my boat (yes, I kept the metaphor alive folks). And thus I got to my 15 finds…

This list runs the range – people, places, philanthropy and – of course delicacies…

Judge me not, this is my lens, ya’ll -

If you prefer another view, take a pass!


1.         Greenhook Gin – Why yes, I know I am being forced to choose sides here – I will take the Brooklyn side (sorry Green Cat people)…maybe it was the passion with which August served it to me at Union Square Cafe, maybe it was just my mood the first time I sipped this amazingly herbaceous elixir – bottom line – I am in!

Greenhook Gin

2.         Chinatown Coffee, Washington DC – You had me at a shot of seltzer with my cortado – you love me, you really love me!

3.         Le Marquis de Riscal – Again, I know that timing is everything – and my arrival at this remarkable Starwood property in the luscious Rijoa region of Spain was about as needed and as well timed as they come. Did I mention the wine? The Caudlie spa? The super –swank accommodations (than you Badr)? The neighboring town La Guardia where you can Tapas out while watching the whole of the small, remote town do the same after their Sunday morning in church – yes that was good!

4.         NoViolet Bulawayo, author of We Need New Names – Lyrical, powerful and compact – the way I like my books. She tells a stunning narrative of the immigrant story – colorful and complex in Zimbabwe perhaps more muted and dark in Detroit. Still, I was rapt! What an impressive debut novel – impossible to put down – to be savored not guzzled. Looking forward to what comes next from this talented literary find.

5.         Bedford Cheese Shop – My Cheesemonger has my heart – I cannot stray. A remarkable and well-edited shop, Bedford is ideal for both novice and seasoned cheesy people alike. I am a fan for life of Charlotte’s descriptions (think down dirty, clever and no holds barred), her great eye for hiring (really there is a contagious a passion and a vibe in the shop like no other) and the sum of every exchange we share!

6.         RMHC – As the year progressed I spent more and more time visiting Ronald McDonald Houses around the US  (with another favorite and one of the few people who can really move me off my mark, Rachel Mennell) and affiliated hospital NICUs. I attended their bi-annual conference in July and yes- took a big gulp of the Kool-Aide. What a remarkable, caring approach for whole family care. Now, to help them grow…off we go…

7.     The Dry Bar – Yes we took it up a notch this year – you joined me in Bethesda in addition to our usual meeting spot in the Flatiron. I credit you for making my life as easy and as beautiful as I ever could imagine, at least in the hair department!

The Dry Bar


8.         The Moth – It is true – I am diehard on this one. And this year I spent more live time with the Moth only adding to my addiction and conviction. Don’t tell me you listen to their podcast but never donate – we will have a problem.

9.         Red Hen –Oh this is my kind of place. It is from the Gramercy Tavern (front room) school of “welcome home” dining out. We have been cozy and never disappointed. I adore the simple brilliance of the kitchen, the clever wine list and the mood, baby, the mood…

Red Hen – Washington, DC

10. Crème Ancienne Ultimate Nourishing Honey Mask - I am not sure full body coverage is really an option – if it were, I would take it! This is the good stuff, at once rich and emollient, luxurious and decadent. It is about as great a weapon against winter’s dry, mean cold as I have tried. And have I mentioned the amazing scent of this miracle mask?  Thank you Fresh for another wonderful addition to my favorite line.

11. 100 Proof Treatment Oil by The Dry Bar – Related to my love of The Dry Bar – this is the one product that gets me through the week and from blow to blow – I consider it to be  a most critical product, especially when I am on the road.

100 Proof Treatment Oil


12.  New Yorker Magazine Digital Copy – Bring on the short stories for travel – just the perfect stockpile of fiction for my time OTR or cozy at home!

13. Scandal – Yes I am a cliché – but as a fixer how can I NOT bow to the high priestess of fixers?

14.  Bon Appetit – Not only did you reinvent both the print and digital copies – you amused me and ticked my fancy with your spine mosaic. I still smile thinking about my finally seeing the picture!

15. True Blue Friends and Family – There are not enough words to say how incredibly grateful I am – and while you are not new “finds” your devotion and care helped me find my way!

Good Friends – Julia and Jennifer, laughing off the rain, as it should be! Photo Credit to Amy!



Painting the Picture with TMI

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

I was just having a very passionate paint moment….really, I was. Corine Ingrassia was begging (in her adorable way) for help with the palate for her biggest project to date, her new home. I jumped up as fast as I could and said “pick me, pick me” – and really, I was not kidding. And really, I was armed with all my Benjamin Moore loyalty and tools — ready to roll (paint roll that is).

That got me thinking — how many other brands had me at hello? Who has made my super-short list of brands that get my signature swoon and preferential passion? I drafted the list.  And then I started wondering, what exactly does this say about me? Let’s see:


Benjamin Moore

The Moth

Bedford Cheese Shop

Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask

The Dry Bar

Starwood Hotels (all about the W, Union Square but I am a loyal girl)

Ok so super smart people — what ever does this TMI say about me?