I was born on the Fourth of July. Just barely, at 11:59 p.m. I was a firecracker baby, as American as apple pie and baseball. Throughout my childhood, when my family watched the annual fireworks, my father would lean over and whisper in my ear, “It’s all for YOU, Karen!” I never really outgrew believing that somehow, everyone in America knew it was my birthday and spent the day celebrating it with backyard barbecues, parades and fireworks. I still hear his voice in my head when the fireworks explode in the sky.

Even now, decades later, I identify with Independence Day. I am American. I am free. Hooray! I can go where I choose, say what I choose and do what I choose. Hooray! Wrap me in red, white and blue; hand me a torch; and I’ll transform into the Statue of Liberty before your eyes!

But I am not just American, I am also Jewish. Like the Pilgrims who first set foot in America, my ancestors in Egypt were tyrannized by an evil ruler who demanded absolute fealty. And like Moshe in Egypt, our Founding Fathers in America demanded freedom. Still, the founding story of America and the founding story of the Jewish people are not identical.

The goal of English settlers was self-determination. To this day, Americans focus on individual rights. Any attempt to curtail those rights leads to protests and dissension. American morality is rooted in this individualism, and citizens can do as they please so long as others aren’t harmed. American laws are enacted to define minimum behavior, below which individuals become liable under the law.

In Egypt, we also experienced human tyranny. Then, as we marched for seven weeks towards Mount Sinai, we tasted pure freedom. But at Sinai—having known both tyranny and freedom—we freely accepted the restrictions of the Torah. Unlike the laws enacted by our legislators, the Torah’s objective is not to give us a baseline of acceptable behavior, but rather, to give us the means to become a nation of righteous people. The Torah is not a handbook for individualism but one for creating a “nation of priests.” It sets the highest bar for us, not the lowest.

And so, I have two identities. As an American, I obey the American Constitution. As a Jew, I obey the Jewish “Constitution”—namely, the Torah. One was written by men, the other by G‑d. One concerns itself with rights, the other with obligations (the mitzvot). One can be amended; the other is unchanging. I am grateful for my rights as an American, but my goal is not only the rights that government can provide, but also the righteousness that only Torah can provide.

The Declaration of Independence speaks of the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In American terms, happiness is typically sought in a materially comfortable lifestyle. We want to live in safe neighborhoods with good schools, have access to good jobs and new cars, and take vacations. Our American forefathers sought to give us the right to pursue these things, regardless of race, gender, religion or creed. For much of our history, Jews have not had these choices available to them. And so, I cherish the Fourth of July, for all America has given me.

But Jews have survived and kept their identity in Diaspora because for us, happiness is not defined through material comforts, but from living a life consistent with Torah values. We are good citizens wherever we dwell. Still, we retain our identity. We remain American Jews, not Jewish Americans. As an American, I can enjoy the freedom of pursuing my own desires, but as a Jew, I must use that freedom to serve G‑d through His Torah, and thereby satisfy His desires. Life and liberty, to Jews, are not ends in themselves; they are the means by which we can serve G‑d.

My birthday is an annual reminder that the American Revolution was fought for the freedom to strive for happiness as each of us defines it. And it was the “Jewish Revolution”—the Exodus and the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai—that gave us the Jewish meaning of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” as well as the path to achieve it. I am the beneficiary of both revolutions. I am a proud American Jew.