About 30 Jewish leaders and activists from as far as Philadelphia gathered Thursday in front of a proposed Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero to voice support for the project and denounce the Anti-Defamation League for attacking it.

"The Anti-Defamation League opened the door to hatred," said Rabbi Arthur Waskow of Shalom Center in Philadelphia. "I was surprised because they do have a history of religious freedom. I don't know what got into them."

Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, co-chairwoman of the Manhattan-based group Rabbis for Human Rights, said: "We are here in anger at how Muslims are being demonized. We are here to support this mosque, to turn sorrow into joy, and offer prayer and friendship to all who enter here."

The ADL did not immediately comment. Last Friday, the group came out against the mosque proposal, saying more information is needed about funding sources for the project and that the location is "counterproductive to the healing process."

"In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain - unnecessarily - and that is not right," the group said.

The group's position shocked many in the religious community because of its long history of fighting discrimination.

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Daisy Khan, a Jericho High School graduate and one of the main forces behind the proposal, saluted the Jewish leaders and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for their support.

"This is a monumental step," Khan, a leader of the Manhattan-based Park 51, the group behind the project, said at the news conference. The community center "will be dedicated to peace and tolerance," she added.

Khan said in light of the city Landmarks Commission vote Tuesday that cleared the way for the project, organizers will now start fundraising for the $100 million complex, appoint a board of trustees and select an architect. She said it was premature to say when the center might open.

Project organizers have been holding prayer services in the building since last year after they purchased the site. City Building Department officials said Thursday nine temporary permits of assembly had been obtained to meet the necessary requirements for holding the services there. "They put in place certain fire safety measures and they are in compliance with the law," said department spokesman Tony Sclafani.

Organizers still have to apply for permits to demolish or renovate the former Burlington Coat Factory building at the site.

With Bart Jones and

Anthony M. DeStefano