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IOTM – Dr. Mark Reiss

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.”

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Marilyn Fayre Milos, multiple award winner for her humanitarian work to end routine infant circumcision in the United States and advocating for the rights of infants and children to genital autonomy, has written a warm and compelling memoir of her path to becoming “the founding mother of the intactivist movement.” Needing to support her family as a single mother in the early sixties, Milos taught banjo—having learned to play from Jerry Garcia (later of The Grateful Dead)—and worked as an assistant to comedian and social critic Lenny Bruce, typing out the content of his shows and transcribing court proceedings of his trials for obscenity. After Lenny’s death, she found her voice as an activist as part of the counterculture revolution, living in Haight Ashbury in San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love, and honed her organizational skills by creating an alternative education open classroom (still operating) in Marin County. 

After witnessing the pain and trauma of the circumcision of a newborn baby boy when she was a nursing student at Marin College, Milos learned everything she could about why infants were subjected to such brutal surgery. The more she read and discovered, the more convinced she became that circumcision had no medical benefits. As a nurse on the obstetrical unit at Marin General Hospital, she committed to making sure parents understood what circumcision entailed before signing a consent form. Considered an agitator and forced to resign in 1985, she co-founded NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers) and began organizing international symposia on circumcision, genital autonomy, and human rights. Milos edited and published the proceedings from the above-mentioned symposia and has written numerous articles in her quest to end circumcision and protect children’s bodily integrity. She currently serves on the board of directors of Intact America.


Georganne Chapin is a healthcare expert, attorney, social justice advocate, and founding executive director of Intact America, the nation’s most influential organization opposing the U.S. medical industry’s penchant for surgically altering the genitals of male children (“circumcision”). Under her leadership, Intact America has definitively documented tactics used by U.S. doctors and healthcare facilities to pathologize the male foreskin, pressure parents into circumcising their sons, and forcibly retract the foreskins of intact boys, creating potentially lifelong, iatrogenic harm. 

Chapin holds a BA in Anthropology from Barnard College, and a Master’s degree in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University. For 25 years, she served as president and chief executive officer of Hudson Health Plan, a nonprofit Medicaid insurer in New York’s Hudson Valley. Mid-career, she enrolled in an evening law program, where she explored the legal and ethical issues underlying routine male circumcision, a subject that had interested her since witnessing the aftermath of the surgery conducted on her younger brother. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Pace University School of Law in 2003, and was subsequently admitted to the New York Bar. As an adjunct professor, she taught Bioethics and Medicaid and Disability Law at Pace, and Bioethics in Dominican College’s doctoral program for advanced practice nurses.

In 2004, Chapin founded the nonprofit Hudson Center for Health Equity and Quality, a company that designs software and provides consulting services designed to reduce administrative complexities, streamline and integrate data collection and reporting, and enhance access to care for those in need. In 2008, she co-founded Intact America.

Chapin has published many articles and op-ed essays, and has been interviewed on local, national and international television, radio and podcasts about ways the U.S. healthcare system prioritizes profits over people’s basic needs. She cites routine (nontherapeutic) infant circumcision as a prime example of a practice that wastes money and harms boys and the men they will become. This Penis Business: A Memoir is her first book.