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Israel Epstein in Yannan, the small Capital of the Shaanxi Soviet Base in 1936 or 37”.

Epstein is a very common name. Nonetheless, while so many people are obsessed with China right now, it’s odd that no one has mentioned the possibility that Jeff Epstein worked for China and/or Russia. Israel Epstein was a member of the Chinese Communist Party, lived in the US for four or five years, and may have been a (Soviet) Russian agent within China. While people routinely dig into the pasts of foundational Americans, and their ancestors, newer immigrants are usually treated as though they have no history prior to arriving in the United States. For instance, we know that John McCain’s ancestors were large plantation owners, but we know nothing about Jeffrey Epstein’s family. We know more about Ghislaine Maxwell than Jeff Epstein, on the other hand, though her father remains a mystery in too many ways. John Kerry is half (elite) Boston Brahmin (Forbes) and on his father’s side is Jewish, not Irish. Upon converting from Judaism to Catholicism the family changed its name from Kohn to Kerry and, just like that, a fake Irishman was born. Being a fake Irishman has been good for his political career. In the 1840s, the population of the United States was already around the same as that of Australia today. We define foundational Americans as those who were within the United States at the time of the American Revolution, and newer immigrants as those arriving after the Civil War, when immigration was easy due to trains, steamship, free land, and help from Catholic, Lutheran and Jewish charities, so that masses of people arrived to live the good life. Most pre-Civil War immigrants were religious and political refugees and many of the earliest immigrants had been transshipped as prisoners-indentured servants, or they were transshipped as slaves. They didn’t wake up one day and decide they wanted to come. Not one person mentions that, like Kamala Harris, Joy Reid is an accidental American – the child of two foreign graduate students – and has nothing to do with the history of the United States. Her parents came to benefit from the struggles fought by foundational African Americans.

Israel Epstein (April 20, 1915 in Warsaw, Poland – May 26, 2005 in Beijing, China, Chinese name: 伊斯雷尔 • 爱泼斯坦, Pinyin: Yīsīléi’ěr Àipōsītǎn) was a journalist and writer of Polish Jewish birth-origin who was naturalized Chinese. He was one of the few foreign-born Chinese citizens of non-Chinese descent to join the Chinese Communist Party.

Israel Epstein was born on April 20, 1915 to a Jewish family in Warsaw (now the capital of Poland), which was then under the control of the Russian Empire. His father, Lasar Epstein, was jailed by authorities of Tsarist Russia for having organized a workers’ revolt, while his mother was exiled to Siberia. After the outbreak of World War I, his father was sent by the General Union of Jewish Workers (the Bund) to Asia 1. When the German army arrived on the outskirts of Warsaw, he and his mother fled and joined Lasar in Asia. Due to the hostility encountered as Jews, the Epsteins moved to China when their son was only two years old and settled in Tientsin in 1920 after living for three years in Harbin 2,3.”
Based on French Wikipedia excerpt: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Epstein

As discussed on page 17 of “A Revolution in Jewish Life: The History of the Jewish Workers’ Bund”, by Clive Gilbert, Oct. 1987, the Bund organized among Jewish soldiers while Russia was at war with Japan. https://www.marxists.org/subject/jewish/gilbert-bund.pdf
[The small book by Clive Gilbert is useful in helping to understand the diversity in Jewish life and thought. Probably because of higher literacy, Jews have long been religiously, politically, and culturally very diverse, despite the comparatively small size of their population. Once this is understood, all anti-semitic conspiracy theories fall apart. There is no one way of being Jewish. ]

Excerpted from English Wikipedia:
Israel Epstein began to work in journalism at age 15, when he wrote for the Peking and Tientsin Times, an English-language newspaper based in Tianjin. He also covered the Japanese Invasion of China for the United Press and other Western news agencies. In the autumn of 1938, he joined the China Defense League, which had been established by Soong Ching-ling, Sun Yat-sen’s widow, for the purpose of publicizing and enlisting international support for the Chinese cause.[2] In 1941, he faked news about his own death as a decoy for the Japanese who were trying to arrest him. The misinformation even found its way into a short item printed in the New York Times.

After being assigned to review one of the books of Edgar Snow, Epstein and Snow came to know each other personally and Snow showed him his classic work Red Star Over China before it was published. He was deeply influenced by the progressivism of Snow and became involved with the democratic movement in China, becoming an editor for Snow’s magazine, Democracy.[2]

In 1934, Epstein married Edith Bihovsky Epstein, later Ballin, from whom he was divorced in the early 1940s. In 1944, Epstein first visited Britain and afterwards went to live in the United States with his second wife Elsie Fairfax-Cholmeley for five years.

After escaping from an Imperial Japanese concentration camp, he worked for Allied Labor News, becoming editor-in-chief. He published his book The Unfinished Revolution in China in 1947. His book was enthusiastically reviewed in The New York Times by Owen Lattimore of Johns Hopkins University. In 1951 Communist defector Elizabeth Bentley testified to the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, “Israel Epstein had been a member of the Russian secret police for many years in China.”[3]

Many years later, his wife, Fairfax-Cholmeley, would become known to a generation of Chinese-language students in China and around the world as a contributor to one of the most widely used Chinese-English dictionaries published in the PRC. After Fairfax-Cholmeley’s death in 1984, Epstein married his third wife, Huang Huanbi.[4]

In 1951, Soong Ching-ling invited him to return to China to edit the magazine China Reconstructs, which was later renamed China Today. He remained editor-in-chief of China Today until his retirement at age 70, and stayed on as editor emeritus. During his tenure at China Today, he became a Chinese citizen in 1957 and a member of the Communist Party of China in 1964.[2] In 1955, 1965 and 1976 Epstein visited Tibet, and based on these three visits in 1983 published the book Tibet Transformed.[5]


Epstein was imprisoned twice, separately by the Empire of Japan and later by the People’s Republic of China.

He was placed in a concentration camp by Imperial Japanese authorities following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He escaped along with some of the other prisoners.[2]

During the Cultural Revolution, on charges of plotting against Zhou Enlai, he was imprisoned in 1968 in the north of Beijing in Qincheng Prison, where he was subjected to solitary confinement. In 1973, he was released, and Zhou apologized. His privileges were restored.[6] Despite his 5 years imprisonment, he remained loyal to the ideals of Communism until his death. Israel Epstein was elected as a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body, in 1983.

During his life, Israel Epstein was honored by Chinese political leaders Zhou Enlai, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao. His funeral was held at the Babaoshan Cemetery for Revolutionaries, in Shijingshan District, Beijing on 3 June 2005 at 09:30. The ceremony was attended by many officials, among then President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, as well as Politburo Standing Committee members Jia Qinglin and Li Changchun. After the service, his body was cremated.

When Epstein (front line, second right) visited Yan.an in 1944, Mao Zedong (back line, first right) received him and other foreign correspondents

Published works

The People’s War. [An Account of the War in China to the Fall of Hankow], V. Gollancz, 1939, 384 p. I
Visit Yenan: Eye Witness Account of the Communist-led Liberated Areas in North-West China, People’s Publishing House [Bombay], 1945, 94 pp.
Notes on Labor Problems in Nationalist China, Garland Pub., 1980, 159 pp.
My China Eye: Memoirs of a Jew and a Journalist, Long River Press, 2005, 358 pp.

History Should Not be Forgotten, 五洲传播出版社, 2005, 286 pp.

The Unfinished Revolution in China, Little Brown and Company (1947), hardcover, 442 pp.

From Opium War to Liberation, New World Press (Beijing, 1956), hardcover, 146 pp.
Tibet Transformed, New World Press (Beijing, 1983), trade paperback, 563 pp, ISBN 0-8351-1087-7
Woman in World History: Soong Ching Ling, New World Press (Beijing, 1993), hardcover, ISBN 7-80005-161-7

See Also:

Rewi Alley Sidney Rittenberg Sidney Shapiro Jews in China Round Eyes in the Middle Kingdom – a documentary about Israel Epstein

1. Israel Epstein Obituary (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1491973/Israel-Epstei n.html). The Telegraph, Retrieved 15 December 2014. 2. Pan, Guang (2019), Pan, Guang (ed.), “Jewish Refugees and the Chinese People: Friendship in a Troubled Time” (https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-9483-6_6), A Study of Jewish Refugees in China (1933–1945): History, Theories and the Chinese Pattern, Singapore: Springer, pp. 63–83, doi:10.1007/978-981-13-9483-6_6 (https://doi.org/10.100 7%2F978-981-13-9483-6_6), ISBN 978-981-13-9483-6, retrieved 9 April 2021 3. Medford Evans, The Assassination of Joe McCarthy, Western Islands Press, 1970, pp. 117– 118 4. Song, Anna. (2010). The Heavenly Ford. Tianjin People’s Publishing House. p. 151. ISBN 978-7-201-06559-5. OCLC 862144523 (https://www.worldcat.org/oclc/862144523). 5. Israel Epstein, a famous apologist for the Chinese Communist regime (http://www.rfa.org/tibe tan/chediklaytsen/ukaylatsen/bodnaykheswang/2005/06/10/life-and-death-of-israel-epstein/) 6. Israel Epstein. Emigre journalist whose devotion to Communist China withstood even imprisonment during the Cultural Revolution (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obitu aries/article530937.ece), 8 June 2005, The Times

Adapted from the Wikinfo article “Israel Epstein” (https://web.archive.org/web/20070930154 635/http://wikinfo.org/wiki.php?title=Israel_Epstein) 2 June 2005

Sources and External Links:
New York Times Obituary by Douglas Martin (https://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/02/internatio nal/asia/02epstein.html) Obituary People’s Daily Online (http://english.people.com.cn/200505/31/eng20050531_187 778.html) Retrospective, China Today (https://web.archive.org/web/20050425144441/http://www.china today.com.cn/English/e2005/e200504/p30.htm) Biography by China Tibet Information Center (https://web.archive.org/web/2007093017103 9/http://info.tibet.cn/en/news/tin/t20050421_25098.htm) Xinhua Newsitem on funeral (http://english.sina.com/china/1/2005/0603/33460.html) Views of a life in China, China.org.cn (http://www.china.org.cn/english/2005/Etsteri/126123.h tm)
This page was last edited on 30 August 2021, at 20:27 (UTC).
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