Joseph Stein was born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrant parents from Poland. He graduated from City College of New York in 1934 and earned a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University in 1937. He had a career as a psychiatric social worker for several years while writing comedy material on the side. One day in the mid-1940s, he met the comedian Zero Mostel through a mutual friend. Mr. Mostel mentioned that he was looking for new material for a radio show, Mr. Stein threw out an idea, and his writing career had begun. He worked in radio and then in television, writing for Sid Caesar's hit "Your Show of Shows." In 1948, Mr. Stein made his Broadway debut, creating sketches with Will Glickman for the musical revue Lend an Ear, starring Carol Channing. Mr. Stein's first book for a musical was Plain and Fancy, about the Amish community in Pennsylvania, which opened on Broadway in January 1955 and ran for 461 performances. His greatest success was the book for the 1964 musical play Fiddler on the Roof, for which he won three major awards, including two Tonys. Mr. Stein's additional Broadway credits include Alive and Kicking, Mr. Wonderful, The Body Beautiful, Juno, Take Me Along, Irene, Carmelina, The Baker's Wife, Rags, Enter Laughing and its musical adaptation, So Long, 174th Street. He also wrote the plays Mrs. Gibbons' Boys and Before the Dawn.