For The Public Good
Ecumenical organization works on issues to revitalize Detroit and the older suburbs.
n Dec. 31, Michigan Gov. John Engler
completed his 12th and final year in
office by vetoing a bill that would have
overhauled mass transportation in
Detroit and its suburbs.
The bill would have created DARTA, the Detroit
Area Regional Transit Authority, linking the bus
services of Detroit and its suburbs and establishing
the framework for a long-term transportation plan
for the metro area.
Its last-minute defeat was especially painful for a
congregation-centered community organization
known as MOSES — the Metropolitan Organizing
Strategy Enabling Strength.
"One of our two core issues is bringing equitable
and comprehensive mass transportation to south-
east Michigan," said Rabbi Joseph Klein of Temple
Emanu-El. "I really think the reason DARTA got
to the governor's desk at all was because of
The Oak Park Reform synagogue is the only
Jewish congregation among MOSES' 70 congrega-
tional members. Among the organization's associate
members are the Marygrove and William Tyndale
colleges and the University of Michigan.
"Over the past 30 years, I've been involved in sev-
eral ecumenical clergy organizations," said Rabbi
Klein, who joined the MOSES Clergy Caucus three
years ago. "It's been very pleasant and I've made
some very good friends, but there's been more show-
and-tell than anything else. MOSES makes a seri-
ous, dedicated effort to transform society."
In the six years since it was founded, the organi-
zation has created "safe zones," community polic-
ing efforts in low- and moderate-income Detroit
communities; won national HIDTA(High
Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) designation for
southeast Michigan, which helped attract about $3
million in annual federal funding for drug enforce-
ment; and led a state coalition that, in 2000, added
$50 million to Michigan's public transportation
Funding for MOSES comes from member con-
gregations, with dues ranging from $500 to
$5,000, depending on congregational size and
resources. The organization also receives grant
funding from such groups as the Ford Foundation,
the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the
The issue of public transportation speaks to
MOSES members on several levels, said William
O'Brien, the organization's executive director.
Without comprehensive, affordable transporta-
State Rep. Steve Tobocman leads a breakout group at the March 8 MOSES community advocacy training session.
Lion systems linking Detroit and its suburbs, he
said, thousands of workers, students, disabled and
senior citizens are left without convenient access to
jobs, education and health care. This lack of public
transportation is a. drain on the economy, while
also adding to traffic congestion and air pollution.
Legislative supporters of
DARTA plan to re-introduce
the bill later this year,
O'Brien said, and Gov.
Jennifer Grariholm has
expressed her support.
MOSES's other major
effort is the Fix It First cam-
paign, which supports pro-
grams to discourage urban
sprawl and rebuild existing
neighborhoods. "We feel
strongly that resources must
Rabbi Joseph Klein
be redirected to the central
city and older suburbs,"
Guest speaker at MOSES's February clergy cau-
cus meeting, held Feb. 27 at Bethel AME Church
in Detroit, was Dr. Kenneth Burnley, CEO of the
Detroit Public Schools.
"So many Jewish people who now live in the
suburbs went to the Detroit Public Schools," said
Rabbi Adam Chalom of the Birmingham Temple,
who attended the meeting as a guest. "I'd like to
see more alumni organizations, with the alumni
doing tutoring and fund-raising."
The public transportation and urban redevelop-
ment issues that form MOSES' top priorities are
among his personal goals as well, said Rabbi
Chalom, adding that the two issues are intercon-
nected. "What good are hotels and casinos [in
attracting tourism and business] if there's no way
for visitors to get around?"
In addition to working with clergy, MOSES
trains lay people from its member congregations in
advocacy, O'Brien said. Training includes how to
do one-on-one lobbying and how to run a cam-
paign involving thousands of people.
A featured presenter at the organization's March
8 advocacy training session was Steve Tobocman,
newly elected state representative from Detroit's
12th Congressional District. A member of the
Birmingham Temple, Tobocman is executive direc-
tor of Community Legal Resources in Detroit.
"MOSES reminds me of the labor organizing
programs of the '60s," Rabbi Klein said. "It stands
for justice, righteousness and a prophetic zeal for
the transformation of society." 0