||Agudat Israel was a movement seeking to preserve Orthodoxy by adherence to halakhah as the principle governing Jewish life and society. The formation of an organized movement and political party to achieve these aims was deemed necessary to present a viable counterforce to the advances made by assimilation and Reform trends, and by Zionism, the Bund, and autonomism in Jewry. The final impetus was given when the tenth Zionist Congress decided to include cultural activities in its program, thereby recognizing a secular Jewish culture coexistent with the religious. Some members of the Mizrachi party left the Zionist movement and joined the founders of Agudat Israel in an assembly held in May 1912 at Kattowitz in Upper Silesia.
Agudat Israel reflected German neo-Orthodoxy, Hungarian Orthodoxy, and the Orthodox Jewries in Poland and Lithuania. These differed in political and social outlook, and in their opinions on cultural and organizational matters. A major divergence was the attitude to general European culture, society, and mores, which German Orthodoxy accepted. They also disagreed about whether to remain part of the main Jewish communal unit or to form separate Orthodox communities, and whether Jews should adopt the language of the state or adhere to Yiddish.
Branches of Agudat Israel were established throughout the Ashkenazi world. Within its ranks, Agudat Israel presented a spectrum of the attitudes which had influenced its creation. Particularly acute was the question of secular education. Some of the initiators of the Kattowitz conference tried to achieve a synthesis by formulating the principle: "The East shall give of its Torah learning to the West, and the West of its culture to the East," Western culture referring to the Western European, German-style, middle class type. This program was contested sharply by the Eastern European sector of Agudat Israel, who claimed that the only plausible basis for unity was maintenance of the status quo; each group should retain its way of life without change. This solution was contained in 18 clauses presented by R. Hayyim Soloveichik, as a condition of the participation of Polish and Lithuanian rabbis in the movement.
In regard to Zionism, Agudat Israel was created partly by groups who consistently opposed any attempt to revive Jewish nationhood in Erez Israel through human agency. The secularist elements in the nascent Hebrew culture added to Agudist resentment of Zionism. Hasidism regarded the influence of Zionism on the youth, and its negative revolutionary view of Diaspora existence, as religiously and socially destructive. Agudat Israel, therefore, maintained an ambivalent attitude toward renewed settlement in Erez Israel, mainly because of its opposition to the Zionist movement. The Agudists resented the cooperation of religious with non-religious Jews within the Zionist movement on the basis of national unity, and unequivocally resisted the creation of a secular Jewish society in the Holy Land. Most Agudists considered that the way of life and culture gradually taking shape in the settlements in Erez Israel, and propagated by Zionist educational and cultural activities, were subverting and destroying the only true Jewish way of life, upheld by religious families and communities in the Diaspora. The revival of Hebrew as a secular language seemed a sacrilege. With regard to sponsoring independent settlement in Erez Israel, there emerged an opinion - Erez Israel should figure at the center of their program, which should, according to the Agudist leader Isaac Breuer, aim at "uniting all the people of Israel under the rule of the Torah, in all aspects of political, economic and spiritual life of the People of Israel in the Land of Israel."