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WELCOME to PAPERS, PLEASE, a Washington D.C. nonprofit arts / education corporation which re-creates an extended Jewish family's first-person journeys through tumultuous cultural, political and economic events -- the Great War, the Russian Revolutions, the rise of fascism, World War II, the Holocaust, the creation of the State of Israel  -- that shaped the West's 20th Century. Our overall mission is to highlight the relevance of this past to today's headlines. To fulfill that goal we work (and sometimes partner) with local officials, institutions, museums, libraries and non-profit organizations which aim to educate, reconcile with and memorialize vanished lives and times.  

The core of these linked individual journeys remains resilience that overcomes desperation and the life-or-death need for proper identity, residence, citizenship or travel documents -- "Papers, please?" -- which our characters face at every border or transition they reach.  This  question shapes their ability to work, study, live, and secure new lives.  It's a theme that echoes for millions of refugees on the move today.

Time Frame: c. 1890 - c. 1990

Countries: Romania, Poland, Russia, Germany, France, Austria, Lithuania, British Mandate Palestine, Denmark, Latin America, Israel, the U.S.

Scope: Papers, Please brings together a linked series of  odysseys in a panoramic canvas.  At its core are first-person narratives we collected from our principals, their families and their friends.   That's thanks to Hirsch Bieler, who recognized his story had a broader context that could be grasped only if unfamiliar times,  places and characters were made familiar.  He convinced us too -- though mastering the who, what, when, where and how of this adventure in life-long learning took us four decades.

Here are this saga's main characters.  Here are some of its secondary characters.  And here are some of the resources we drew from.

We bring these tales and their times to life through nonfiction books; a series of multi-media Two Pianos 'concert documentaries' with narration plus live classical music, presented around the world; a curated traveling exhibit with numerous artifacts; educational materials; and video performance highlights or full-length DVDs.  Highlights videos are on our Two Pianos You Tube Channel.   Highlights videos and performance reviews also are on our Two Pianos website.  

Our books are published under the imprint of Penn Convoy Press, in memory of the oil products company Hirsch Bieler founded in 1939 after he reached the States.  They are illustrated full-length nonfiction volumes centered on first-person oral histories of the main characters and their circles, backed by letters, photographs, travel documents, and historical context.

Books, performances and related activities also help us build bridges between past and present, across borders and cultures.

                                               -- Michael H. and Nora Jean Levin, April 2023



May 2022

Two Pianos: Playing for Life Performance

Untermyer Gardens, Yonkers NY

(L to R) Varshavski, Levins, Shapiro, Hoffman

14 September 2022

Stolpersteine (Stumbling Stones) Installation

 for Ruben, Civia and Dina Suwalski (grandparents and aunt)

Grajewo, Poland

Nora Jean Levin with Niece Stephanie Hafte

Click here for Levin's remarks

May 2023


The Musical Life and Times of Rebecca Burstein-Arber

as told to

Nora Jean and Michael H. Levin

To order this paperback book please Click 


24 June 2023 3:30 PM

Reading / Presentation

A Border Town in Poland

Nora Jean and Michael H. Levin

Oak Bluff Library, Martha's Vineyard MA

 29 July 2023 4:00 PM

Reading / Presentation


Nora Jean and Michael H. Levin

Chilmark Library, Martha's Vineyard MA