Welcome to Motol


Entering Motol, 1999

Courtesy of the Weizmann Archives, Yad Weizmann, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

via Google Maps

Other Names

  • Motele (Yiddish)

  • Motoul (Polish)


1937 photo of the house in Motol where Chaim Weizman was born. Courtesy of the Weizmann Archives, Yad Weizmann, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

Motol_street_with_geese.jpg (173933 bytes)

Photos from a 1994 trip to Motol by Shevi Karlinsky Geldman

Welcome to the Motol ShtetLink site! Please browse through the site and enjoy visiting or re-visiting the town of Motol in Belarus.  If you have suggestions or additions, please email Debra Wolraich, one of the coordinators of the site.

A Brief History of Motol

In Jehuda Reinharz’s book, Chaim Weizmann: The Making of a Zionist Leader, two stories are told about the founding of the town of Motol, both having taken place in the mid seventeenth century. In one, the original town was destroyed by Chmielnicki’s Cossacks and, in the other it was destroyed during the Swedish invasion of Poland. In both cases, a Jew named Motol or Mordechai survived the destruction and erected a building that then or later became a tavern or inn that was frequented by travelers or merchants on their way from Minsk to Pinsk and Pinsk to Minsk. Perhaps it is that tavern that gave rise to the saying, “from Minsk to Pinsk and Motele on Shabbas.” In any case, by 1847 the Jewish population grew to 222, and in another fifty years totaled 1,354 among the 4,297 inhabitants of Motol. (Reinharz, 1985).

Motol is located about 20 miles west of Pinsk on the Yasolda River in a region called Polesie made up mainly of forest and the marshlands from the many tributaries of the Pripet River. According to Reinharz, the economy was always very poor in that region. The timber industry was central to the economy. In addition, livestock could be raised on pastureland.   The small amount of cultivated land produced various grains and potatoes; and fishing, beekeeping and horticulture also formed part of the economy. (Reinharz, 1985).

Polesie was part of Poland until the various partitions during the eighteenth century. After Napoleon’s defeat, Russia annexed eastern Poland, and Polesie became part of the Pale of Settlement, the area designated for Jewish habitation. The area was subdivided into provinces, called guberniyas. Motol was located in Grodno Guberniya in the Kobrin District. Many of our ancestors lived in Motol during the time Chaim Weizmann described it in his autobiography, Trial and Error. When Chaim Weizmann and his family lived in Motol, “There was no post office. Mail was brought in by anyone from the townlet who happened to pass by the nearest railway station on his own business...But letters played no very important part in our lives; there were few in the outside world who had reason to communicate with us.” (Weizmann, 1949) Again according to Reinharz, contact with other communities took place primarily at marketplaces in the surrounding area – Pinsk, Kobryn, Stolin, Lunynets, Mozyr, Kamien, Kosirski, Sarny and Ovruc.

Motol, Belarus

Memories of Motol

Families from Motol

Photos & Documents

Researching Motol

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This site is hosted at no cost by JewishGen, Inc., the Home of Jewish Genealogy. If you have been aided in your research by this site and wish to further our mission of preserving our history for future generations, your JewishGen-erosity is greatly appreciated.

 Compiled by Debra Wolraich & Charlynn Miller 
Updated 2022
Copyright © 2006 Wolraich & Miller