Playwright Joseph Stein dies at 98

New York: Joseph Stein, the playwright who immortalised Jewish life in early 20th-century Russia in the classic Broadway musical ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, has died at age 98, a news daily reported.

Stein died Sunday at his New York home after fracturing his skull in a fall. He won a ‘Tony’ for his seminal work and later wrote the screenplay for its successful movie adaptation.

Based on a series of short stories by revered Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem about a humble Jewish milkman and the challenges facing him and his family in 1905 Russia, the musical won nine Tony awards in 1965 and went on to become Broadway`s then-longest running musical.

Stein was born in 1912 in the Bronx to immigrant parents and was a social worker before a meeting with comedian Zero Mostel catapulted him into a writing job. He made his Broadway writing debut in 1948 and later became part of the writing staff of Sid Caesar`s classic 1950s comedy-variety series ‘Your Show of Shows’.

Stein also wrote the book, or story for other successful broadway shows including ‘Zorba’, about a philosophical Greek fisherman, which he claimed affected him more deeply than his seminal work on ‘Fiddler on the Roof’.

"I do believe in the philosophy of `Zorba`," Stein told the Hartford Courant in 2007, "that life is what you do until the day that you die, so you better make use of all of it so you`re proud of what you`re doing”, he added.