Republished from the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, by Jared Sichel

According to TMZ and an email blast sent by the JEM Community Center, the Miami Heat practiced at the Jewish youth group’s Beverly Hills facility on Tuesday before playing the Los Angeles Lakers later that night. The JEM Center is run by the Illulian family and Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, who is pictured above with some of his children and Wade. Also according to TMZ, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant met up with the Illulians in May before a playoff game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

As an important note, notwithstanding my experience with JEM’s leadership, the center seems to do very good work for many young Jews in Los Angeles, particularly in the Persian community.

But still, neither Wade nor Durant should have met with the Illulians and the Miami Heat should’ve known better than to use JEM’s basketball court.


Because JEM’s leadership has protected and, in my opinion blindly stands behind, an accused sex abuser, Mendel Tevel, who’s facing criminal charges in Brooklyn and who’s Illulian’s son-in-law. The case appears headed towards a trial. Here’s my series of stories last year on Tevel. My coverage was from August 2013 to November 2013:

1. “Childhood abuse victims name alleged abuser”

2. “Beverly Hills police report arrest of alleged sex abuser”

3. “Mendel Tevel in Los Angeles jail awaiting extradition”

4. “Accused as sex-abuser, Mendel Tevel appears in L.A. court”

5. “Accused sex offender transferred to custody of Brooklyn D.A.”

6. “Accused sex offender pleads not guilty, released on bail”

So why shouldn’t Wade, Durant or any other public figure associate with Hertzel Illulian?

Not because he stands behind Tevel and not even necessarily because he employed Tevel at a youth center after having heard rumors and stories about Tevel’s alleged abuses. If Tevel’s case goes to trial, or if he pleads guilty, then we’ll be able to better ascertain whether Illulian’s support of and employment of Tevel is indefensible or whether he was right in trusting him around children.

But because Wade and Durant have reputations to protect.

Their errors were not a moral issue, but an image issue. Obviously, professional athletes and celebrities cannot be expected to vet the backgrounds of every person they take a picture with. But that is the job of the Heat’s communications experts and those of Wade and Durant. They should’ve typed “JEM Center” or “Illulian” into Google News. They would’ve seen that there’s strong reason to believe that Illulian was fooling himself about Tevel and recklessly putting children at risk by employing Tevel at JEM.

We’ll know whether that was in fact the case once the criminal case against Tevel concludes, but until then PR consultants should do their homework and think twice before allowing their clients to be buddy-buddy with Illulian.

Otherwise, what’s the point of a PR consultant?


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