Reb Hillel Lichtenstein of Kolomiya (1814-1891) was a renowned Chassidic Rebbe and a disciple of the Chasam Sofer. A powerful preacher and popular writer, Reb Hillel was a leading figure in the intensive resistance to modernizing tendencies among the Jews of Northern Hungary.
In 1998, Rabbi Israel Meir Gabay, chairman of Oholei Tzadikim, succeeded in locating the site of Reb Hillel’s grave in the Ukrainian town of Kolomiya – in the middle of what is now a municipal park. After Herculean efforts over the course of many years, Oholei Tzadikim was able to secure the required municipal permits to erect an Ohel on the gravesite.
After the site was fenced by the “Avoiseynu” organization, Oholei Tzadikim and Geder Avos worked together with Rabbi Shmuel Levi Weinberger, the Kolomyer Rebbe, to construct a beautiful Ohel in honor of Reb Hillel. In addition, a tastefully-appointed guest house was built to accommodate the regular visitors who spend Shabbos at this site.
In addition to the being the resting place of Reb Hillel, the local area formerly known as Okup is evidently the birthplace of the Baal Shem Tov. Indeed, several historic sites associated with the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples have been marked and preserved. For example, an explanatory Hebrew plaque is now affixed to an old brick wall in the building that housed the mikveh built by Reb Yaakov Koppel Chassid. According to tradition, this was the mikveh in which the Baal Shem Tov immersed in his youth after which he would meditate in solitude in the nearby Carpathian Mountains. A smaller plaque directs visitors to a well that is mentioned in the classic book Shivchei HaBesht.
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