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A tribute to Richard Schwartzman

Richard Schwartzman, a psychiatrist who wrote and spoke about child rearing, including the harm of infant circumcision, passed away on July 20, 2022. He was 83 and is survived by an immediate family that includes Rebecca Wald, her husband, and their children.

For close to 50 years, Dr. Schwartzman practiced medical orgone therapy, a unique approach to restoring emotional health pioneered by Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957). Reich was a widely misrepresented physician and natural scientist who attempted to demonstrate a Western scientific basis for life energy, an animating force that he maintained flows through all living things and permeates the cosmos.

“The pain and terror of circumcision is NOT ‘forgotten’ as is said, even though it cannot be consciously recalled. I am a physician and psychiatrist who has had patients relive their circumcision in the course of Wilhelm Reich’ s body-oriented, emotional release treatment,” Dr. Schwartzman once told Ronald Goldman, Ph.D., in a personal email.

Dr. Schwartzman went on to say that he had seen at least 15 individuals who sought treatment because they felt they had been emotionally damaged by their circumcision and/or were in the process of regrowing their foreskin, noting that all but one (who terminated treatment very early) had improved their function and satisfaction with life.

Dr. Schwartzman became aware of Marilyn Milos’s important work around 1989 when one of his associates, James DeMeo, Ph.D., spoke at Marilyn’s first symposium and then several after. Dr. Schwarzman is mentioned in Goldman’s 1997 book, Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma. Dr. Schwartzman was also a friend of Intact America, and had the opportunity to speak in Boulder in 2015 at the Genital Autonomy symposium. There he explained how early infant traumas are physically locked within us at a bio-energetic level. He also showed a clip from Room for Happiness, a documentary he produced about medical orgone therapy.

Dr. Schwartzman received his Bachelor of Science degree from Philadelphia’s rigorous Central High School and thereafter matriculated directly to Temple University School of Pharmacy, graduating in 1963. After becoming a pharmacist, he attended the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He undertook two medical internships, the first at Zeiger Osteopathic Hospital (1967) and the second at Philadelphia General Hospital (1970). The second internship allowed him to pursue a residency in psychiatry and neurology at Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital, which was an M.D. program.

Dr. Schwartzman was the first osteopathic physician in the United States to complete an M.D. residency, paving the way for many others to do the same. He lobbied for this opportunity and chose the burden of repeating the grueling internship year because he felt the M.D. residency would best prepare him as a psychiatrist. Dr. Schwartzman was never one to take a linear or expected path in life for its own sake, or to let established rules prevent him from doing what he felt was right.

In the practice of medical orgone therapy, Dr. Schwartzman was trained by physicians Morton Herskowitz, D.O. (1918-2018) and Elsworth F. Baker, M.D. (1903-1985) who had both been Reich’s students and were directly trained by Reich. This lineage allowed Dr. Schwartzman to practice orgone therapy as Reich had conceived it. Over the years, Dr. Schwartzman was disheartened by the emergence of many various self-taught “energy workers,” claiming to practice orgone therapy or calling themselves Reichians. He felt such offshoot approaches could be harmful to the recipient and also greatly contributed to the already misunderstood Reich.

Dr. Schwartzman maintained a private medical orgone therapy practice in Center City Philadelphia and then in Solebury, PA, from 1974 until his retirement in February of 2021. He positively impacted the lives of countless grateful patients. He also trained many physicians in the practice of orgone therapy (not just in the U.S. but also in Greece, Italy, and Germany); he wrote journal articles; he was an early blogger; and he lectured on topics related to Reich’s work.

In addition, Dr. Schwartzman was also a fellowship-trained forensic psychiatrist, serving as Medical Director of Psychiatric Services to the Philadelphia Prisons and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Hahnemann University (1978-2000). In this role he saw firsthand how criminal behavior stemmed from childhood trauma. Dr. Schwartzman had the opportunity to train many of Hahnemann University’s medical students who would rotate through the prison hospital. He also regularly testified in court, sometimes in high-profile cases, regarding competency to stand trial and post-conviction recommendations.

Dr. Schwartzman was full of energy, and full of love for his family and his work. He had an incredibly generous spirit. He also had an inquisitive and open scientific mind. Using his skills as a pharmacist, he was known to putter in his kitchen compounding medications with a mortar and pestle that weren’t available in the pharmacy. He liked to point out that many great thinkers, scientists, and artists were laughed at and scorned by the establishment during their lifetimes, only to be accepted as geniuses centuries later.

Like his mother, Beatrice, Dr. Schwartzman was an optimist who always saw his cup in life as half full. He felt extremely fortunate throughout his life, pointing out on the occasion of his 83rd birthday that he had enjoyed good health until old age had recently taken its toll. He expressed how very lucky he was to have had meaningful work that he enjoyed for so many years. He took great joy and pride in his immediate family.

Dr. Schwartzman’s message was to enjoy life whenever possible, often encouraging his family to have more fun. He very much liked Goethe’s quote: “Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must.” His recipe for a successful life: Try to lead a simpler life by limiting unnecessary obligations and responsibilities. Find big work that you find meaningful and enjoy. Take pleasure in giving generously to your family and others you love. Do not strive to be “happy.”

As founding board member emeritus, Dr. Schwartzman also played an important role in founding Bruchim, a nonprofit that supports non-circumcising Jewish families. He was delighted by Bruchim and always enjoyed hearing the latest Bruchim news, frequently sharing insights with his daughter Rebecca that have helped shape the direction of the organization. Bruchim will be a lesser organization for his absence.

If you have memories of Dr. Schwartzman that you would like to share with the Wald family, or any other thoughts related to his life and work, you may send them to [email protected] The family is requesting that memorial contributions be made to Intact America, Bruchim, or the charity of your choice that benefits infants and children.

Do You Know: The causes of tight foreskin and what to do about it?

Marilyn MilosBy Marilyn Milos, RN

Sometimes the retractable foreskin of an adult male will close down; this condition is called “pathological phimosis.” Too often, when men who have developed pathological phimosis consult with a urologist or other physician, they are told that the only cure is circumcision. This is incorrect in most cases.

The word phimosis means muzzling, to indicate that the glans (head of the penis) is muzzled by the foreskin. At birth, most babies have “physiological phimosis,” a normal condition because the glans and foreskin have not yet separated. The foreskin separates from the glans over time, usually by adolescence.

But even after the foreskin becomes mobile and retractable, it is possible that a man will one day begin to have trouble retracting it, and be diagnosed with pathological phimosis.

Here are a few possible causes for pathological phimosis, along with cures that you can pursue in order to avoid the loss of your foreskin.

1. Yeast imbalance. Exposure to soap, shampoos, and chlorinated water in swimming pools or hot tubs can kill normal, beneficial bacteria on the foreskin. This can result in yeast overgrowth, inflammation, itching, and stinging with urination; it can also make the foreskin close down. A yeast imbalance can be corrected by eliminating soap and shampoo, or by using a barrier cream on the foreskin before swimming. To help the healing process. Liquid Acidophilus culture purchased from the health food store or pharmacy can also be applied to the foreskin by pouring some of the liquid into the palm of the hand, dipping the foreskin into the solution, and letting it drip dry; do this six times a day for 3 or 4 days.

2. Vigorous sexual activity. Sometimes the foreskin will close down if a male has been too vigorous sexually, which can cause small tears in the foreskin. The opening will become tight while the tissue heals. Time and gentleness are the cure for this.

3. “Lichen sclerosus” (formerly called “BXO”), is another condition that can cause the foreskin to become too tight. Lichen sclerosus is characterized by the presence of small, shiny, and smooth white patches on the foreskin. These patches may become larger, and the skin may become itchy, thin, and wrinkled, and may tear easily and bleed. A dermatologist can diagnose lichen sclerosus, which is commonly treated with two creams, Clotrimazole and hydrocortisone, both available over the counter at your local pharmacy, or by prescription, depending upon the desired strength.

If none of these conditions is present, and your foreskin is simply too tight for comfortable retraction, before considering circumcision, ask your urologist about a Y-V- or Z-plasty. These are surgical techniques in which small slits are cut in the foreskin, and then sewn together in a way that widens the opening. This surgery saves the foreskin and its specialized nerve endings that allow for full sexual sensations and enjoyment.

As you can see, finding the reason for your phimosis is a critical step to solving the problem and avoiding the loss of your foreskin.

If you have questions not covered here about problems with your foreskin, you may write to us at: [email protected].

Voices — James F. Verrees, M.D., FACOG


During my Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency, I had the opportunity to learn newborn circumcision. Because of the frequency of the procedure, I agreed to the training. Yes, the Siren on the rocks of “cultural normalcy” called me.

Immediately prior to the training, I remember a blond-haired resident giddy with excitement at being able to learn the procedure, and vividly recall her saying: “Have the nursing staff line the boys up. Go Chop! Chop! Chop! Think of all the RVUs you can make??” RVU stands for Relative Value Unit, which is a figure used for compensation. Obviously, her main concern was the amount of money that could be generated by sexually maiming newborn boys in the name of profit. 

The white Circumstraint board was on a procedure table. The baby was brought into the room. The mother’s written “consent” had been verified.

There were three of us. My assigned job was to put the safety pin through the foreskin. 

The naked baby was then placed in four-point restraint and immediately began crying uncontrollably. Someone prepped the skin. Another Resident placed the local anesthetic which resulted in further crying. Those who have children or work with newborns know that babies do “talk” in their own ways. There are cries of hunger. Cries of frustration, and cries of absolute fear and pain. Perhaps I am blocking out the other parts of the procedure that the other two doctor trainees performed.

It came time for me to place the safety pin, so I was standing directly over the baby. The screaming was just awful. I can remember starting to place the safety pin in the foreskin and small dot of blood appeared where the pin would be placed. At this point, I almost walked out of the room. Seeing a naked restrained human screaming in pain, with his head rocking back, spittle flying from his little mouth was too much. I wondered, “Now why are we doing this? Why are we violating this human being? I finished my part and stepped aside. As the shrieks of the restrained baby intensified, the third resident severed the baby’s foreskin along the edge of the clamp and placed the circular bloody specimen on side of the Circumstraint. 

I will never forget the shrieks of that baby. 

The episode left me with the knowledge that I had violated my own morals as well as the code of medical ethics. Indisputably, we had done harm to the baby that day. The baby’s normal genital anatomy at birth had been forever changed, leaving him physically altered as well as neurologically ruined. Unquestionably, it is impossible for a newborn baby to give consent for such a procedure. I still hear the screams from time-to-time.

And we call ourselves healers?

I have never performed or taken part in another circumcision.

James F. Verrees, M.D., FACOG
Las Vegas, Nevada

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Voices — Friendships

Elise Wicklund

I think a lot about friendship these days. Becoming an intactivist eight years ago really changed how I interact with the world—not because I fear rejection, but because I know what I believe is sound and resolute—and this has had a profound impact on my friendships.

First, a little background. I became an intactivist after my first son, Paxton, was born. Despite knowing in my gut I didn’t want to have him circumcised, I let the advice and opinions of those around me convince me that it was the right thing to do. But right from the start Paxton was in a lot of pain from wounds that wouldn’t heal. He developed a painful ulcer, adhesions and other complications in the first few years of his life. It broke my heart that he shrank from any touch.

I was full of guilt and regret. I sank into a depression so deep I thought about killing myself. I pulled away from everyone. At the same time, even my husband wasn’t hearing me. In those days he didn’t understand the intensity of my grief, and I was really low.

It wasn’t until I joined a Facebook group for moms with similar experiences that I started channeling my grief into action to help other babies and their families. I attended rallies and met my Facebook community in real life. We formed a bond of support while speaking out and shining a spotlight on this atrocity.

I noticed that some moms would join the cause for a while and then drop off, eager to get back to a more normal life rhythm. It was a little sad to see those friendships drop off one by one, but I pressed on. Fighting to end circumcision was just a hill I was willing to die on. That’s when I started sharing what I had learned about circumcision with friends on Facebook. I had to be heard, so I was posting pretty regularly. Every time I came across new information, I’d put it up there. Some of my long-time friends were there for me and supported me all the way.

But staying with the cause dropped a bomb on my friendships. Right away, friends I had known for years pushed back. Some shot off angry replies. Others complained I was pushing my views on them or posting inappropriate material. Many unfriended me or stopped responding to calls and texts.

I used to think I didn’t care what others around me thought, and then I climbed on that hill and stood on it. It hurt for a while. Sharing what I knew was part of my healing and my journey, and my whole village around me was walking away. It took a very long time to allow myself not to be individually invested and angry.

I can see now that fear drives anger; my posts probably made them question their own decisions, and there was nothing they could do about it. I’ve also come to realize that there are people who just don’t want to understand. When it comes to friendship, it’s more important than ever to nurture mutual respect with folks who don’t agree with us.

To move through regret and grief, we don’t ever get over it. We learn to grow a life around it. If we don’t, we’ll sit in the pain forever. I’m still as passionate as ever to save baby boys from mutilation, but I’m learning to let go of the outcome. I offer my best and keep going.

Elise Wicklund

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“What Is Making These Guys So Angry”

We cannot deny that the increasing violence being perpetrated in America today is carried out by boys and men. “Mental illness” is invoked as an explanation, and “more mental health services” are proposed as a solution. Bigotry and hate – perhaps even more complex than mental illness – are also cited as “motives” for many mass shootings and individual crimes against particular racial or ethnic groups.

We shake our heads and ask, “What is making these guys so angry?”

We posit answers like “broken homes,” “bad parenting,” “lack of opportunity,” social and economic disadvantage when compared to other groups or races or cultures… or we throw our hands up in the air and label the killers as “cowards” or “just plain evil.”

Maybe it’s time for us to look at the deepest roots of this violence. Why are boys and men committing mindless mass murder against people they don’t even know, and taking their own lives at unprecedented rates? Where does this all come from? How far back does it go?

For nearly eight decades, American doctors have been engaged in the routine sexual maiming of American boys, carried out (to emphasize the obvious) without boys’ consent, and without regard for their future wellbeing.

Furthermore, until recently, circumcision has been practiced with no pain relief for the child, despite the fact that it is mostly occurs in a medical setting where pain management is given for other surgeries. Even now, though the use of local anesthetic has become more common, it’s not obligatory or particularly effective. And even after the physical wound has healed, the boy must live with scars on his penis and his psyche, and dismissal of his concerns by the same establishment that violated his rights and his body.

The roots of this astonishing lack of compassion for the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society include extreme ignorance and denial (e.g., the assertion that “babies don’t feel pain”), greed (“I can do more circumcisions, more quickly, if I don’t have to wait for anesthetic to take effect”), and mindless disregard, if not contempt, for future physical and psychological consequences (“it’s harmless,” and “anyway, he won’t remember”).

And now, even as more and more boys are being protected from circumcision shortly after birth, they have become targets for another type of violation and act of physical violence – forcible foreskin retraction. Parents are increasingly reporting taking an intact son for medical appointments that have nothing to do with his genitals and being blindsided by a doctor or nurse intent on forcing back the boy’s foreskin, causing great pain and trauma.

Explanations for mass violence, as for all social phenomena, are necessarily complex, and we must resist the impulse to toss out overly-simplistic observations and solutions.

But we need to listen to the growing number of men speaking out about having been violated as babies when an essential (i.e., of its essence) part of their penis was forcibly severed. And we must ask ourselves whether the nearly ubiquitous violation of baby boys as a class of people and the assembly-line acts of violence carried out upon individual newborns might be responsible for at least some of the rage, pain and feelings of impotence that underlie the epidemic of mass killings we are witnessing today.

I will conclude with a quote from my dear friend and fellow intactivist Shelton Walden, who called me as I was writing this introduction:

“We need to treat each other well. We need to stop doing things that make people crazy.”

– Georganne Chapin

This essay was originally published on June 13, 2022, in the Intact America May/June newsletter.

Voices — V.R.

I was circumcised twice—first when I was born and again as a revision when I was about 5 years old. This has haunted me ever since.

I clearly remember the second circumcision—surrounded by doctors all looking at me. I was scared and cold, and my mom had left the room. This was not a pleasant experience. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Looking back at my teenage years, I noticed that I had a few experiences that were not normal. I did not know that without the foreskin, the glans and shaft can become dry, which results in small painful tears and chafing.

Fortunately, I’ve learned to do some of what a missing part of my body (the foreskin) is supposed to do: keep things moisturized. But the scar is a daily reminder that I was robbed. I have never had any complaints from partners in the past, but that is not the point. Even in a world where this is considered the norm, I have always been conscious that something wasn’t quite right.

I wanted to know why circumcision was considered necessary, so I started to do more research. I found out how common circumcision and mutilation are for children and young adults all over the world, and how hospitals sell foreskin to tissue banks, and somehow this ultimately becomes facial creams and cosmetics. I was shocked and felt sick when I read this. I got so angry, a friend told me to look for organizations that are fighting against it, so I could find people who share my anger and aren’t afraid to speak out about it.

That’s when I found Intact America online and saw what they are doing to change things. I want to make a difference any way I can. I want people to recognize that this is a business. Tell me why the hell a single foreskin can sell for upwards of $100,000? In fact, I think they owe me $200,000 since they did it twice. They did it twice and I still have part of my frenulum, a sensitive band of tissue that helps contract the foreskin over the glans. Medical professionals learn to perform circumcision by actually doing it. There is no infant penis model for them to practice on. Was I a test subject? The whole thing is absurd.

What hits me the hardest is knowing I will never have the full experience of being intact. My solution is tissue expansion. It’s a non-surgical method that, when done properly, can yield many benefits. Essentially it creates a neo-foreskin through gentle stretching exercises over a year or two. It won’t have the same nerve endings as the original foreskin, which is still sad, but it will provide every other function, including improved sensation, a more moist and supple glans surface, and protection. This is a permanent and long-term investment for me. I am even considering a tattoo to symbolize the journey my body and I have been through.

There are things I have experienced that I just do not want to share. This, however, is something I am brave enough to fight for. All of these negative experiences imbued my aura with an eternal flame of darkness. A dark flame sounds very contradicting, like an oxymoron, and that’s because it is. It’s still fire. It’s still fuel. Is it light? Nope. But I will use it to propel me throughout the rest of my life. If I can fight for myself, I can fight for others. If I can love myself, I can love others.

I am only 20 years old. I feel like I have been through too much already. But I am still breathing. I am still standing. I am still here. I grieved the person I was as a child full of innocence. I have shed my skin many times. Nothing really fazes me anymore; I am often disappointed by things most people think are scary. I have no fear because I know I can face anyone or anything. This little journey I’ve been on with my body has been horrible yet liberating. I am conquering one thing at a time. Deconstruction and reconstruction. Death and rebirth. This is my story.

V.R.

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