A lucky curtain maker

With a little bit of chutzpa – and lots of luck – Donald Gough managed to build a successful business from bottom up shortly after he made aliya.

Doland Gough 521 (photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Doland Gough 521
(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
If every potential immigrant could be guaranteed as happy an aliya as Donald Gough and his family they’d be knocking at the gates in their thousands to come here instead of trickling in by the tens and dozens.
“I’ve never had the slightest problem,” says the 68-year-old retired curtain maker from Manchester who came here in 1984 with his wife, Joanna, and three children.
The ingredients for what appears to be a flawless transition from England to Israel would seem to be strong motivation, having a skill which was still fairly rare in Israel, determination to succeed and a good dose of luck.
With his cheery and positive attitude it’s inspiring to talk to someone who loves living here this much, regards it as a privilege to be here and has absolutely no complaints.
Before Aliyah
He was born in Manchester in 1943 and left school at 15 to go to work. His father had died when he was born and he needed to help his widowed mother.
“We were poor, but most Jews in Manchester were poor in those days,” he says. “I never felt bitter that I had to start work so young. We had no money but there was plenty of love.”
He went into curtains because there was a job going and he realized he could make money at it. He was the lowest ranking worker, but he learned the job well and after he made aliya and established himself he made gorgeous drapes for the super-luxurious mansions of the rich and noteworthy of this country.
At the age of 24 he opened his own business in Manchester, three years later he met and married, Joanna, and settled down to a bourgeois life in the second biggest Jewish community of Britain after London. They bought a house, had plenty of friends and a good social life. They visited Israel as tourists but living here was not yet on their minds.
As his two sons got older he began to worry about intermarriage.
It became something of an obsession for him, especially as many of the Jewish neighbors in the high-end Salford suburb where they lived had children who had married out.
It got to the point where he didn’t want them to attend high school in England as this would have led to university and at that point he says, “we wouldn’t have been able to extricate ourselves.”
So they sold the house, booked an ulpan in Kiryat Yam and came to Israel.
Joanna flew here with two of the children; Donald drove with his younger son in his new Subaru that he’d bought for Israel, through Holland, Germany, Yugoslavia and Greece, taking the ferry on the last leg of the week-long journey to Haifa. Even on this long and potentially difficult drive, “I never had a single problem,” he says.
At the end of a year in ulpan, he decided he had better start work and the plan was to open a curtain business as he had done in England. Here he ran up against his first setback. He would walk around the furniture and fabric stores on Herzl Street in Tel Aviv and try to find out about suppliers and curtain accessories but was unable to get information from any of the store owners.
“No-one was willing to tell me anything,” he recalls.
One day he was outside the premises of a big curtain manufacturer, just observing, when a van drew up delivering fabrics and accessories.
“I got hold of his order book from his open van when he went into the shop,” recounts Donald, “and I was able to find out all I needed to know about suppliers, prices and the lot.”
Perhaps one should add a good dose of chutzpa to the necessary prerequisites for successful aliya.
He set up in a shop – Manchester Curtain Company in Ramat Hasharon – and was there for 28 years. He worked hard but the business flourished and the company became a byword for beautiful drapes and the last word in blinds. He retired only recently and the business is now run from home by his daughter, Katy, who has a degree in education and an Internet business selling curtains and blinds.
The two sons, Eli and Adam, both received higher education, run successful businesses and, perhaps most importantly for their father, married Jewish girls, one from the United States and one from Russia.
Donald and Joanna live in Netanya and keep very busy with synagogue activities – he is the gabbai (warden) of his shul – and the active social whirl of a community with many other retired Anglos.
He manages to walk 10 miles a day to keep fit and looks back on his aliya as one of the best decisions he ever made.
“I thank God every day that I was born at the best time possible, towards the end of the war, and into a generation that saw the birth of the State of Israel,” he says. “I still can’t quite believe how lucky we are.”