The Shmooze

‘Fiddler’ Writer Joseph Stein Dies

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share

It’s hard not to hum “Sunrise, Sunset” (swiftly flow the years…) when reporting the death of Joseph Stein, the playwright who wrote the Semitic-kitsch musical classic “Fiddler on the Roof.” According to the BBC, Stein died at a New York hospital from complications after a fall; the writer had been in care suffering from prostate cancer. He was 98.

Stein earned a degree in social work from Columbia University in 1937 and worked for a decade as a psychiatric social worker, according to JTA. After a chance encounter with Zero Mostel, Stein began writing comedy sketches for radio personalities such as Tallulah Bankhead, Phil Silvers and Jackie Gleason, Broadway World noted. Stein later made his television debut while working with Sid Ceasar, when he joined Your Show of Shows and its impressive crew, including included Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart.

“Fiddler,” based on Sholom Aleichem’s “Tevye and His Daughters,” is his biggest success. The show opened on Broadway in September 1964 and ran for over 3,200 performances. Zero Mostel played the lead character, Tevye, a Jewish milkman in Tsarist Russia struggling to confront change both within and around his home and family. “Fiddler” enjoyed many Broadway revivals, most recently in 2004 when British thespian Alfred Molina played Tevye.

AP reported that producers initially “had doubts the story would prove universal enough to attract a large audience.” But director/producer Harold Prince finally mounted the show. “The title ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ was suggested by Chagall’s painting,” Prince wrote in his stage memoir, “Contradictions.” “Joe Stein then accommodated what we all thought was an intriguing title with a monologue at the beginning of the show.”

Stein’s first wife, Sadie Singer, died in 1974, and he is survived by his second wife, Elisa Loti, their daughter, and three sons from his first marriage, according to an obituary in the UK Guardian.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zero Mostel, Sunrise Sunset, Fiddler On The Roof, Joseph Stein

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.