JANUARY 2012: Dr. Mark Reiss, a 77-year-old retired physician and renowned concert pianist, is a dedicated intactivist who has made a special contribution within the American Jewish community. Back in the 1990s, Mark was mostly unaware of the many harms of circumcision, though he does still remember an article from a 1965 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Written by William Keith Morgan, M.D., “The Rape of the Phallus” questioned the pre-existing bias from the author’s Jewish experience and the medical mythology of the 1950s—”the dark ages with regards to knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the foreskin,” says Mark.
Mark has been an active proponent of keeping baby boys intact since 1999. He has written many letters to the editor, published papers (such as “My Painful Journey: A Retired Jewish Physician’s Acknowledgment of Circumcision Trauma Leads Him to Activism”), spoken at conferences, and recorded YouTube videos that have helped thousands of families thinking about whether or not to circumcise their sons.
As part of his research into the history of ritual circumcision, Mark began to look at the practice in the Jewish community and came to realize that circumcision is not an identity issue. “You do not need to be circumcised to be Jewish,” he says, “any more than you need to observe many other Jewish laws. The bottom line is this: if your mother is Jewish, you are Jewish, period. Increasing numbers of intact boys are going to religious school, having bar mitzvahs, and taking their place as young adults in the Jewish community. As a Jewish grandfather, I want to assure young couples about to bring a child into the world, that there are other members of the Jewish ‘older’ generation, including other Jewish physicians, and even some rabbis, who feel as I do. If your heart and instincts tell you to leave your son intact, listen!”Dr. Mark Reiss
One of Mark’s most significant contributions has been the creation of a database of “Celebrants of Brit Shalom”—rabbis and other lay Jewish leaders who are willing and able to officiate at non-cutting naming ceremonies for baby boys. These celebrants are helping the growing minority of Jewish families who want to discard the traditional “Bris” for a more peaceful and non-traumatic way of ushering their baby boys into the covenant of Judaism.
Mark is a member of Intact America’s Board of Health Professionals, as well as serving as Vice President of Doctors Opposing Circumcision.
With regard to Intact America, Mark says, “Georganne Chapin has moved the organized genital integrity movement to new levels, bringing all of us into a more focused mode to deal with our primary mission, to stop newborn circumcision within the United States, and by extension, internationally. I am now feeling optimistic that the tide is changing in our favor, and we owe a deep sense of gratitude to Intact America for taking a major role in this change.”
“Dr. Mark Reiss is a unique and wonderful individual,” says Georganne Chapin, Executive Director of Intact America. “He is a physician, an athlete, an accomplished pianist, a devout family man, a dedicated member of his San Francisco synagogue, and a committed intactivist. Mark’s life and actions reaffirm that being faithful does not depend on blind adherence to antiquated, harmful rituals. Intact America is proud to count Mark Reiss among our supporters.”