Seekers of secular Jewish heroes and anti-heroes often have no further to go than NPR on their car radio (or whatever radio). And October -- right now -- is one of the many times during the year when our NPR stations do their fundraising. So let's talk about NPR.
NPR covers many exploits reflecting the values of the general American demographic that we secular Jews belong to. Yes, they try to have something like balance. And they often offend if you listen closely. But really, NPR is the radio home for a secular Jewish listener.
Also, consider NPR hosts and announcers: Peter Sagal, Michael Feldman, Andrei Codrescu, Teri Gross, Mara Liaison -- all themselves Jews of one sort or another. And that's not an exhaustive list at all.
Sagal and Feldman definitely represent the Americanized version of Jewish humor that got its start in the not-at-all secular Jewish resorts and clubs in the heavily Jewish East. I hope I don't need to explain why they're secular Jewish heroes! Codrescu doesn't seem quite so Jewish, but he's connected to an older middle-European sort of Jewish irony.
Here's a quote about Teri Gross: "I know what Gross's pantheon is: American outsiders, blues players and rebels like Dennis Hopper and edgy artists. There is something Jewish in that; a cultural identification with other outsiders." (This in a blog criticizing her for not attacking Israel. You see what I mean.)
And another quote "She challenged Bill McCartney, founder of the evangelical Christian men's group, Promise Keepers, on the lack of diversity within its group. McCartney responded, 'Hopefully our outreach would influence those that have not yet subscribed to the tenets of Jesus Christ to be saved...the consequences are eternal.' Gross, who is Jewish, felt McCartney was saying 'it's OK to look a little different as long as they think exactly the same.'"
Further, this morning there's relevant news about NPR: "NPR has terminated its contract with Juan Williams, one of its senior news analysts, after he made comments about Muslims on the Fox News Channel." In my opinion, this makes NPR still more likable by many secular Jews.