Chim: David Seymour's Humanist Photography
National Gallery of Art, home page
Image: David Seymour (Chim), The First Child Born in the Italian Immigrant Settlement of Alma, Israel, 1951, gelatin silver print, printed 1982 David Seymour (Chim)
The First Child Born in the Italian Immigrant Settlement of Alma, Israel, 1951
gelatin silver print, printed 1982
National Gallery of Art, Gift of Ben Shneiderman
© David Seymour Estate/Magnum Photos

Israel

The First Child Born in the Italian Immigrant Settlement of Alma, Israel

Chim's photograph of a beaming Eliezer Tritto holding up his newborn daughter—the first child born at the Italian immigrant settlement of Alma—captures the determination and idealism of the émigrés who helped establish the new state.

Chim was attracted to the settlement because of its residents' unusual background. They hailed from San Nicandro, a small, impoverished town in southern Italy, and in the 1930s had converted to a homegrown version of Judaism under the sway of a cobbler and mystic who had become disenchanted with Catholicism. The San Nicandro Jews were officially received into the Jewish community in 1946. Sixty or so emigrated to Israel in 1949, where they joined Holocaust survivors and Jews who had been persecuted in other countries.

Chim's photo conveys the settlers' resolve to make the state viable—both through human reproduction and through the cultivation of the hardscrabble land from which sprout tiny, new whitewashed homes. The baby's white baptismal robe visually echoes the houses and speaks to the community's Italian roots.