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The Jüdische Kulturbund Project



A Concert Documentary

Featuring Piano Duo Stanislava Varshavski and Diana Shapiro


Saturday, 9 June 2018

7 PM

Presser Hall, Settlement Music School, 416 Queen Street

Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Dedicated to Tania Bieler Haftel (1933-2017)  Founder, Settlement Music School “60 + or -” (now Adult Chamber) Players Program, 1988



Welcome: Gail Prensky, The Jüdische Kulturbund Project

Narrators: Nora Jean Levin; Michael H. Levin; and Dr. Kenneth Hoffman

Pianists: Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo, reading main character roles and playing:

Waltz from Suite for 2 Pianos, Op. 15, No. 1

Anton Arensky

Scherzo from F Minor Sonata, Op. 34b

Johannes Brahms

Burlesque from “The Juggler,” Op. 31, No. 3

Ernst Toch

Mazurka, Op. 63, No. 2,

Frederic Chopin 

Video: Anna Bieler with “60 Plus” Chamber Players, Settlement Jenkintown Branch (June 2, 1992).

Videographer: Stephanie Haftel

{Discussion, Exhibit, Reception]



The Jüdische Kulturbund Project under direction of Gail Prensky brings to this premiere deep understanding of the Kulturbund’s spirit which recognizes that issues of living under tyranny continue for artists around the world today. She hopes the Project will serve as a beacon of inspiration to artists and others.



Anna Character: Stanislava Varshavski
Halina Character: Diana Shapiro
Hirsch Character: Michael H. Levin

Narrators: Nora Jean Levin, Kenneth Hoffman

Pianists Stanislava (Stasi) Varshavski and Diana Shapiro are internationally-acclaimed “four hands” master teachers and performers whose stories echo those of Anna and Halina. Stasi (born Kharkov) and Diana (born Moscow) met at the Jerusalem Conservatory and went on to win competitions in Miami, Rome and Prague. They have been playing and recording together since 1998 and hold music doctorates from the University of Wisconsin.

Nora Jean Levin is the younger daughter of Anna (1908- 2003) and Hirsch (1900-1985) Bieler and was born and raised in Philadelphia. Her sister Tania was born in Leipzig 10 years earlier.

Michael Levin, also a Philadelphia native, is son-in-law of Anna and Hirsch. The Levins met as undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Kenneth Hoffman is Halina Neuman's first-born grandchild. When Halina's daughter Jola came to the States as a student she married Eli Hoffman/ They eventually produced four sons.



Two Pianos is a one-hour+ piano event that recreates the courage and artistry of young mothers who performed for Jewish audiences after the Nazis banned Jews from public performances. Music and narration tell the stories of concert pianists Anna Burstein and Halina Neuman, who met as "alien student residents" at the Leipzig Conservatory in the 1920s, and played two-piano concerts with the Leipzig Jüdische Kulturbund after 1933.

Anna came to Philadelphia in 1938 and was on the Settlement Music School faculty for almost 40 years. In 1939 she played the first of her many recitals in this hall. Halina survived the Holocaust and came to the U.S. in 1951. She performed widely in New Jersey and joined the Rutgers University piano faculty. They were life-long friends.


Anton Arensky (1861-1906): His two-piano Waltz (1888) was famed for its elegance.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) re-scored his sonata for two pianos from his F Minor Sonata Piano Quintet for piano and strings, often called “the crown of his chamber music.”

Ernst Toch (1887-1964) Avant-garde Vienna modernist, wrote his burlesque Juggler suite in 1923, became a Hollywood film composer, and received a Pulitzer Prize for his Third Symphony (1957).

Frederic Chopin (1810-1849): His poetic Mazurka "The Fall of Warsaw" (1846) has been described as “one of his most moving.”



The Exhibit’s music, photos, memorabilia, documents and narrative follow the pianists and their families from Conservatory days through the Third Reich and wartime disruption to their U.S. careers and lifelong friendship.

Exhibition Design: Stephanie Reyer

German Translations: Barbara Ann Schmutzler


The Project (founded 2002) explores musicians and artists living under oppression and how they respond using music and art. Our story begins with Jewish musicians and other performing artists in Nazi Germany and connects their examples to current-day artists around the world, highlighting the role of identity, the power of music, the resiliency of the human spirit and the will to survive.  We seek to link people who share common experiences of persecution, inspiring them to respond through cultural expression.  Project initiatives include live presentations; music, dance, and drama performances; education programs that involve designed art and music exercises; and dramatic feature films. Our Website (jü shares stories about the Kulturbund, its activities, and nearly 40 current-day participating artists from 24 countries.



Two Pianos’ archival projections are drawn from historical images and private collections of the Levin and Hoffman families.


Projection Design and Video Production: Gail Prensky

Audio and Projection Engineer: Sara Marinich


Gail Prensky is Creator and Director of the Judische Kulturbund Project. 

Michael and Nora Jean Levin, co-writers and co- producers, began interviewing Jean's parents and their surviving European friends in 1978. The Levins’ four-decade journey through sixty years of family and world history became a 1200-page private sourcebook from which Two Pianos was drawn. Its title, Papers Please: A 20th Century Odyssey, is now the on-line hub for all Papers Please Inc. performance and publishing activities.


Bringing the program to life, the venue and the audience was made possible in part by:

Peter Schoenbach, whose advice led us to Settlement and the Varshavski-Shapiro Duo.


Renée and Joe Zuritsky and Daniel Promislo, who introduced us the Director and staff of the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH).


Kris Rudzinski, Amelia Schmertz and Megan Looby of Settlement Music School and Mary Felley, Program Coordinator, Settlement’s Adult Chamber Players.


Tania Bieler Haftel, for documents, photos, childhood artifacts, the closing video, and early Settlement School correspondence.

Stephanie Haftel and the Hyatt Corporation, for guest arrangements at the Bellevue Hotel.


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