JERUSALEM – The Conservative Jewish seminary in Israel says it will allow gays and lesbians to become rabbis, overcoming years of opposition by many of its own leaders and setting up a new point of contention between the movement and Israel’s Orthodox establishment.

The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, affiliated with Israel’s Conservative Jewish movement, announced it would begin accepting gay and lesbian rabbinical students in Jerusalem this fall. The decision late Thursday ended a rift with the Conservative movement in the U.S., which began accepting gay and lesbian rabbinical students in 2006 and ordained its first openly lesbian rabbi last year.

Like other branches of Judaism, Conservative Judaism — a major denomination in the U.S. but a marginal force in Israel — has faced calls for greater openness toward gays and lesbians, despite biblical prohibitions on homosexual conduct.

The wording of the movement’s announcement hinted at the fiery debate that preceded it.

“In the Conservative world, there are rabbis who accept ordination of gay and lesbian students as well as those who do not,” the statement said. “The decision is the result of a long process that included broad consultation and a search to find a consensus among differing opinions.”

Professor Hanan Alexander, chairman of the seminary’s board of trustees, said the decision “highlights the institution’s commitment to uphold Jewish religious law in a pluralist and changing world.”

The Conservative movement interprets Jewish law more strictly than the liberal Reform movement, but its ordination of female rabbis is not accepted by more stringent Orthodox Jews.