“Whatever ails you, we help you down here.”

“Whatever ails you, we help you down here.”

A Henry Street Settlement Instructor Gives Lives Meaning One Stitch at a Time

On this Wednesday afternoon, Ruth Taube holds court with a group of five women working at ancient sewing machines in the basement of Vladeck Houses. Colorful fabrics work against the backdrop of mundane white. This is where Taube, now in her 90s, has been coming every week for nearly 50 years. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Taube teaches women who live in nearby NYCHA developments to knit, sew, and embroider as an instructor for the nonprofit social services agency, Henry Street Settlement.

Even as technology and machinery has advanced to make many of her teachings obsolete, and funding for her programming has gradually diminished, Taube still finds great meaning and purpose in her work.

“It makes me very happy, because I can reach all these people. Most of the women here are seniors citizens who find sitting at home and watching TV is not enough for them,” Taube said. “Crocheting and knitting is my hobby and livelihood.”

For Taube, every day brings a new surprise. It is what keeps her old job young. On this particular afternoon, Patricia Brown, a Jacob Riis House resident battling cancer whom Taube has not seen in 10 years, walked in to visit.

“I was working, my client that I took care of for private care died, and I had my business, then I was diagnosed with cancer. I’m taking it one day at a time,” Brown said on her absence. “But it is great to see Ruth. She is still here, she is still sewing. You always learn new things with Ruth, and she enjoys what she do. She’s a very compassionate person.”

Taube’s students aren’t the only ones that have praised her commitment to NYCHA and Henry Street. In 2009, Taube was profiled in a full page feature for The New York Times. She has been honored by the Fashion Institute of Technology and the NYCHA Tenants Association, and appeared on the Cooking Channel’s My Grandmother’s Ravioli.

When Taube was named NY1’s New Yorker of The Week in 2015, her story generated the most twitter activity in the NY1 history. “Internet me,” the 93-year-old said as this writer was leaving. Take her advice, you’ll be glad you did.


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