She’s the thread keeping the community together

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | In the cozy basement of the Henry Street Settlement’s offices at the Vladeck Houses, Ruth Taube, 95, has kept a fortress of fabric scraps, knitting and crocheting tools and sewing machines. She even has a fitting room.

Since 1966, the basement has been the location of Taube’s Home Planning Workshop — tea and coffee provided.

The workshop formerly even sported programs to build and repair furniture, and repair televisions, radios and shoes. Ten years ago, budget cuts to her sewing class led her students to protest. They called the settlement’s then-director and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Eventually, the New York City Housing Authority provided cash to revive the program.

“It’s always been from Day One from when I started in 1966, learn to do for yourself and you won’t be in need,” she said. “Help yourself and you’ll be on the right track.”

Taube, a lifetime Lower East Sider who lives in the Seward Park Cooperative, has become a fixture in the neighborhood.

She’s been featured in The New York Times for her workshop and invited onto Mo Rocca’s cooking show, “My Grandmother’s Ravioli,” to make her matzo ball soup. She raised her daughter in the neighborhood as a single mother after her husband died from injuries in World War II.

On a recent Wednesday, a neighborhood couple dropped by to visit Taube. The husband revealed he no longer needs to attend the class, having recently learned sewing skills from her.

But her workshop has evolved from a sewing class into a small community.

Often, Taube said, her regulars come in asking for help with other myriad issues. Recently, the instructor helped a woman call Spectrum to fix her cable. Sometimes they come to her asking for advice on personal issues.

“Listen, I’ve been in this business for 100 years,” Taube said. “I talk to people in a sensible way and in a sympathetic way and understanding because if they need help, I know how to answer them because I know what it is when I need help, how I would like somebody to talk to me.”

Her workshop has become smaller, and few young people join her classes these days, she said. Still, sometimes as many as 20 people will come Tuesday or Wednesday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“Henry St. is my second life,” Taube said. “I have a big history here.”

3 Responses to She’s the thread keeping the community together

  1. So proud of my mother, when u walk the streets of the LES with her people appear out of doorways, and bldgs to kiss her, and ask her if she remembers them when they were little.

  2. What a wonderful inspiring lady! It is wonderful you still have her in your life. I am sure you cherish her every day.

  3. As a quilter, i’m Proud to know she’s out there still teaching people how to sew!!

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