The Masorti Movement of Judaism in Israel will ordain gay and lesbian students as Conservative rabbis in Israel from the next academic year, it has been confirmed.

The word ‘masorti’ means ‘traditional’ in Hebrew, though the movement itself has nothing to do with those who define themselves as ‘masorati,’ which also means ‘traditional,’ in a sense distinct from Orthodox Judaism. The Masorti Movement itself has nearly sixty congregations in Israel, and a fifth of that number in Britain.

The ruling comes from the Board of Trustees of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, which voted just a few hours ago to accept gay and lesbian students for ordination beginning the 2012-13 academic year.

A seminary statement said the decision comes following a “long process.”

A statement by Hanan Alexander, chair of the seminary’s Board of Trustees, said: “The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary views the serious process leading to this decision as an example of confronting social dilemmas within the framework of tradition and halachah (i.e., Jewish law)… This decision highlights the institution’s commitment to uphold halachah in a pluralist and changing world.”

The students are ordained by a rabbinical court (beit din), which is made up of three members of the seminary’s Rabbinic Advisory Committee, all of whom are members of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Masorti Movement. The members of the beit din are chosen by the candidate in question and must be approved by the seminary’s dean, with each member having their own opinion concerning the ordination of gay members.

This mechanism is unique, the statement continued, in its expression of “halachic pluralism, one of the founding principles of SRS. The Seminary is a religious institution of the Masorti/Conservative Movement, bound by Halacha, whose inclusive approach allows for a variety of Halachic opinions.”